KARACHI: A complete lockdown has been scheduled from 12-3pm to limit Friday congregations, a spokesperson for the government of Sindh said Wednesday, two days ahead of the weekly prayers.
The decision to impose the Friday afternoon lockdown was made after consultation with ulema, Senator Murtaza Wahab said, noting that all kinds of business activities would also remain suspended during the 12-3pm time period.
Wahab emphasised that anyone violating the government-imposed lockdown would face legal action.
Friday prayers, which remain a festive part of the week for Muslims, attract thousands of worshipers who greet each other, shake hands, and hug — all of which are discouraged as part of the preventive measures against COVID-19 coronavirus that has so far infected over 2,000 people across Pakistan and left more than two dozen dead.
On Friday, March 27, hundreds gathered for the weekly prayers despite strong warnings from the provincial government to avoid congregations amid fears of coronavirus, cases of which continue to rise exponentially all over the country.
In some cases, local police officers had rushed to the mosques to try and discourage people from entering but backed down in the face of possible conflict.
Many of the ulemas and imams — prayer leaders — had consequently been booked for violating the government’s predetermined orders but the cases were withdrawn on Monday after religious scholars from different school of thought met Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to voice their concerns. The ulema then went on to guarantee their full support in the war against coronavirus.
‘Limited to five people’
Shah had told them that despite a unanimous decision following consultations with doctors and religious scholars to limit Friday prayers to five people at a time, “some people violated this code of conduct, [and] as a result, the law took its own course”.
The CM had requested them again “to keep their Juma congregation limited to five people as had been agreed earlier”, assuring them that sureties of those who had already obtained bails from different courts would be returned.
The Sindh government had earlier decided that only the mosque’s imam, muazzin, khadim, and two others would congregate for Friday prayers owing to the threat of coronavirus.