Rawalpinidi security marh
Security officials conducting a flag march on May 15 as Punjab Government ordered to keep the markets closed for three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). However, the Supreme Court on Monday has ordered the government to open all the shopping malls seven days a week. Image Credit: APP

Dubai: Pakistan Supreme Court has ordered the government to open all the shopping malls across the country. “People will die of hunger even if they survive COVID-19 if the business activities are not resumed in the country,” said Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed. His remarks came as he headed a five-member bench of the Supreme Court to hear the suo moto case regarding measures taken by the government to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Pakistan partially eased lockdown on May 11 and allowed shops, business and small markets to open but it did not allow shopping malls to open.  During the court proceedings, the Chief Justice Ahmed questioned the logic behind keeping shopping malls closed.

COVID-19 cases rise

The top court’s decision came as Pakistan grapples to control the coronavirus spread. According to official tally updated on Monday afternoon, the number of cases has risen to 42,125 with 903 reported deaths due to COVID-19. Some 11,922 patients have recovered so far in the country.

Shopping malls to also open during weekend

The Chief Justice also ordered the shops and malls open even during the weekends. The court in its order stated that it did not find any justifiable reason on the closure of shops, markets and business on Saturday and Sunday, as all days of the weeks are same. The businessmen shall be allowed to do their business on all days, which is permissible under the law, subject to enforcement of SOPs, the court added. The Chief Justice said that coronavirus did not go anywhere on Saturday and Sunday and asked what was the reason behind keeping markets closed on Saturday and Sunday?

The court said that shopping malls in Punjab would open from today, while Sindh would take approval from the health ministry. The court expects that the health ministry would not create any unimportant hurdles and allow businesses to open, reported APP, the official news agency of Pakistan.

Ensures safety measures

The court said that it would be the governments’ responsibility to ensure that SOPs were being followed. The court also restricted Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani, who had appeared before court today, from sealing shops and markets. He directed the commissioner to reopen the shops that had been sealed. “Instead of closing the shops, educate the shopkeepers and the shoppers about the SOPs,” said the Chief Justice.

What is the case

The top court picked up the case to keep a review on the measures had taken by the federal and the provincial governments to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country. So far, the top court has summoned officials from provinces, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Health department, and local government officials to present a report on the policy and implementation of measures. Hearing has been adjourned until May 21.