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COVID-19: Pak SC asks govt to sack top health advisor

By Sajjad Hussain
April 13, 2020 19:49 IST
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Pakistan's Supreme Court on Monday directed the removal of Dr Zafar Mirza as the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health for failing to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, in a blow to the Imran Khan-led government's battle against the deadly virus.

IMAGE: A police officer detains a doctor who along with others demonstrates against the lack of protective gears for medical staff who are treating coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients in Quetta, Pakistan. Photograph: Naseer Ahmed/Reuters

During a hearing on a suo motu case on the coronavirus crisis in Pakistan, a five-member bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed observed that Prime Minister Imran Khan's Cabinet has become ineffective in the fight against the pandemic.

 

The bench questioned the integrity of Mirza in tackling the COVID-19 crisis and the transparency of his work done.

The judges expressed serious doubt over the eligibility of the senior doctor as prime minister's advisor on health.

Expressing dismay over the government's performance to combat coronavirus, the apex court noted that there is a lack of leadership that could maintain unity in the country.

The court observed that there were some serious allegations against the team of special assistants to the prime minister.

"There is an army of ministers and advisors in place but no work is being done," the Chief Justice said, adding that 'corrupt people' have been kept as advisors in the government.

"The prime minister's Cabinet has become ineffective...All the provinces are doing whatever they desire," he remarked and directed the government to remove Mirza from his post.

Responding to the Chief Justice's remarks, Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan said the apex court's observations and direction for Mirza's removal would "only cause harm" to the government's efforts in combating the coronavirus crisis.

He noted that removing the prime minister's aide during this point and time would be disastrous.

"Do not change him mid-flight," the Attorney General said, urging the court to leave the matter on the federal government.

The chief justice said he was very careful in passing such remarks, and adjourned the hearing till April 20.

Later the court issued written orders directing the governments of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces and the Gilgit-Baltistan authorities to submit the details of actions taken by them to curb the deadly viral infection.

However, the written order made no mention of Mirza's removal.

Mirza enjoys the status of a state minister. He was appointed Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health last year after the then Health Minister Amir Kayani was removed from his post for failing to check spiralling drug prices.

Mirza's removal would be a major setback to the Imran Khan government as he is one who is leading the campaign against COVID-19 in Pakistan and addressing media daily about the steps being taken to control its outbreak.

Pakistan has recorded over 5,475 COVID-19 cases on Monday. The death toll has reached 95.

The Pakistan Medical Association has said more than 100 doctors, nurses and para medical staff have been infected so far across the country, blaming the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for not providing them required protective gear.

Prime Minister Khan on Sunday appealed for a "global initiative on debt relief" to help Pakistan to overcome disastrous impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Sajjad Hussain
Source: PTI© Copyright 2020 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
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