Lockdown Extended in Pakistan, Mosques Declare Themselves Exempt
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that the nationwide lockdown would continue until April 30th. However, for the sake of economic productivity, restrictions for some industries deemed ‘low-risk’ such as cement, fertiliser, chemical manufacturing, glass manufacturing, e-commerce (aimed at exports), mines, paper and packaging manufacturers and a number of other smaller businesses by the govt. have been eased.
But, a meeting of the ulema and various religious scholars (with representatives from the Jamiat-e-ulema Islam, Jamiat-e-ulema Pakistan, Jamaat-i-Islami and Tanzeem-e-Islami among others) said that community prayers five times a day would be held in mosques, posing a major public health risk. State authorities had restricted these congregations to a maximum of 5 people, but these restrictions have been violated many times and led to clashes with the police.
Calling the congregational prayers a ‘necessity’, the religious board claims that all government precautions would be followed, proper distance between rows and columns will be maintained, carpets would be removed and the floor washed with disinfectant liquid after the prayers, and sanitizers would be installed at the gates of the mosque and the elderly will be urged to pray from home.
Lockdown Extended, The government has responded to this declaration, saying that a national decision will be taken on April 18th. This decision is going to cause tension and split opinions either way, with Pakistan’s state religion (Islam) and the beginning of the holy month of Ramzan (or Ramadan) on April 23 sure to complicate the matter.