Pakistan lifts limit on congregational prayers as Ramadan approaches - GulfToday

Pakistan lifts limit on congregational prayers as Ramadan approaches


Worshippers offer their prayers outside a mosque in Islamabad on Friday. AFP

Tariq Butt, Correspondent / Reuters

Pakistan has lifted restrictions on congregational prayers at mosques, but put in place a host of safety conditions to avert the further spread of the coronavirus in the country, a statement said on Saturday.

Islamabad imposed the restrictions less than a month ago, allowing only three to five people at mosques for prayers.

The decision to lift restrictions, taken in a meeting between Pakistani President Arif Alvi and religious leaders, comes less than a week before the Holy Month of Ramadan, in which the size of congregations typically increases.

Alvi held talks with Jamaat-e-Islami chief Senator Siraj-ul Haq, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith chief Senator Sajid Mir and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Rana Tanveer Hussain regarding prayer congregations.

In separate telephone calls, Alvi discussed with them matters pertaining to his meeting with clerics about measures to be adopted against the spread of the coronavirus during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

The move was part of the efforts by state functionaries to dissuade religious leaders from holding congregations as mosques in the federal capital and several other areas witnessed significant gatherings during Friday prayers after the announcement by senior clerics that they would not observe the ban on public gatherings.

"Mosques are given permission conditional to taking due precautions," a statement following the meeting said, adding that it was mandatory for mosque visitors to wear masks.

Pakistan has registered 7,638 cases of the virus and 143 deaths and health experts warn that congregations pose the biggest threat to the limited healthcare infrastructure of a country of more than 200 million people.

According to the statement it was also decided worshippers would maintain a 6-foot (2-metre) distance from each other instead of the usual Muslim practice of praying shoulder-to-shoulder and that mosque administrations will disinfect premises regularly.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday announced a 14-day extension to a countrywide lockdown, but eased curbs on essential industries to counter economic shocks as IMF and the World Bank gave bleak outlooks for the country's economy.

Imran Khan said in a televised briefing on Saturday that Pakistan could see a peak in the spread of the virus in mid May.


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