It is up to Ulema to ensure people follow SOPs for prayer congregations: PM Khan

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that after the government conditionally allowed congregational prayers in mosques, it was now the responsibility of ulemas to ensure the people follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for collective prayers.

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Talking to journalists during the Prime Minister’s Ehsaas Telethon, which was held to raise funds for Covid-19 relief, he said the government had initially tried to convince people to pray at their homes but it later became clear that people would go to mosques during Ramazan “no matter what we do”.

“I know my nation. I knew people had to come out [to pray] during Ramazan,” he said.

Once this was confirmed, he continued, the government decided to allow people to visit mosques but with certain conditions. He said it was also made clear at the time that the mosques would be closed if people violated the SOPs agreed between the government and ulema.

“It is now the responsibility of the ulema who gave us guarantees” to ensure the precautions are observed, Prime Minister Imran said.

Nevertheless, the premier stressed that people should pray in their homes and stay indoors during Ramazan. He also said doctors across the country were justified in demanding a strict and complete lockdown because they are on the frontlines of the battle against the coronavirus.

But he said the government had to show flexibility when ulemas argued that mosques could be allowed to open with SOPs just as some other sectors, such as the construction industry, were opened with orders to follow certain SOPs.

Prime Minister Imran said that instead of issuing orders that lead to people being “beaten up and jailed” for coming out of their homes, “we as a responsible nation should place the onus on the public.”

In addition, he said, the government had the option of imposing a “smart lockdown” in areas where people are not following the SOPs for congregational prayers.

The premier during his remarks urged citizens to practise social distancing, saying what differentiates the coronavirus from other viruses is that its rate of spread is “unprecedented”.

He stressed that “no government can solve coronavirus [crisis] on its own”, saying everyone would have to contribute to the efforts that will be needed to defeat the pandemic in the coming days.

Speaking about the government response to the health crisis, the prime minister reiterated that there is no “political interference” in the government’s Ehsaas cash disbursement programme and the entire process is computerised.

He said that he did not start fundraising to help those affected by the lockdown until he “fixed the financial controls”.

There has “never been such a transparent programme in the country’s history”, he added.

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