Monday Mar 30, 2020
KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Monday ordered police to withdraw cases against various Ulema, including mosques' imams (leaders), for violating the predetermined Friday prayer rules amid the coronavirus lockdown.
Presiding over a meeting of Ulema and religious scholars from different school of thought here at the CM House, Shah took them into confidence and told them that despite a unanimous decision following consultations with doctors and scholars to limit Friday prayers to five people at a time, "some people violated this code of conduct, as a result, the law took its own course".
The Sindh government had earlier decided that at any Friday prayers, only the mosque's imam, muazzin, khadim, and two others would congregate owing to the threat of coronavirus.
Since the Ulema had raised the issue of cases filed against them, the chief minister said he was "directing the inspector-general of police to withdraw the FIRs registered against Imams and other people all over Sindh" and requesting them once again "to keep their Juma congregation limited to five people as had been agreed earlier".
Shah further assured them that sureties of those who had already obtained bails from different courts would be returned, to which they responded by eulogising his efforts and guaranteeing full support in the war against coronavirus.
Apart from the Sindh government and top police officials, Muftis Taqi Usmani, Imran Usmani, Zubair Usmani, Muneeb-ur-Rehman, Rafi-ur-Rehman, Abdur Rehman, Rehman Amjad, Abid Mubarak, Yousuf Kashmiri, Allama Shahenshah Hussain Naqvi, and Maulanas Abdul Waheed and Imdadullah were present in the meeting.
Shah said he had held an emergency meeting after patient zero was identified in Sindh on February 26 and decided to close schools but that the situation continued to deteriorate. He consequently announced a 15-day closure of government offices, restaurants, and then shopping centers, before finally deciding to declare a complete lockdown.
Doctors had advised us, warning that the spread of COVID-19 was extremely dangerous and should be stopped, he said, mentioning how the virus quickly overtook the world.
"Today, we have 508 [cases], including 171 cases of local transmission," he stressed, adding that the rest came from elsewhere. "This is why I am requesting each and every one to maintain social distancing and avoid gatherings and congregations."
The decision to limit congregational prayers, he explained, had been made after a thorough discussion with and input from all stakeholders in the matter.
"The most challenging aspect was to stop congregations in the mosques but I'm thankful to the Ulema for guiding us," he said. "The objective is to save our people from this disease and with the cooperation and support of Ulema, this has become possible."
Shah highlighted that the mosques were open, call to prayers continued five times each day, and a limited number of people gathered to pray. "This is what is required,” he added, assuring the Ulema that once the threat was over, "everything would become normal".
However, he emphasised to the Ulema that they should continue announcing from the mosques' loudspeakers that congregational prayers will remain limited and people should, therefore, pray at home. He also underlined how the virus could have caused a heavy loss had the provincial government not imposed a lockdown and taken the extraordinary measure.
"Yes, it has not been eliminated but we have slowed down its spread and have contained it,” Shah told the meeting.