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March 29, 2020

Violating ban on Friday congregations: Religious parties condemn arrests, cases against Imams

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March 29, 2020

KARACHI: Condemning the arrests and registering cases against pesh-e-imams for violating the Sindh government's restriction on congregational prayers, religious parties on Saturday demanded their immediate release and withdrawing cases against them.

On Thursday, the provincial government backed by Fatwa by number of religious scholars had announced that citizens would not be allowed to offer congregational prayers — including Friday prayers — in mosques until April 5 to contain the spread of coronavirus. However, a significant number of clerics defied the government’s ban and held Friday congregations. Most of the clerics who defied the government's ban belonged to the Barelvi school of thought who were following the directions of Mufti Muneebur Rehman and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan chief Khadim Husain Rizvi. Some of them were reported to have linked with Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl. Police in Karachi and other cities of the provinces registered dozens of cases and arrested a number of clerics for violating a number of ban. Mufti Munib ur Rehman, who also heads the central Ruet-Hilal Committee, on Saturday, condemned the arrest and registering of cases against the imams and said that instead of containing coronavirus, the entire police is harassing the religious scholars and imams.

Rehman alleged that provincial minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah and advisor Murtaza Wahab have intentionally sabotaged the March 25 joint declaration of religious scholars by announcing the closure of mosques for Friday prayers on Thursday night. “Shah and Wahab did not provide sufficient time to the religious scholars to convince people of the need to reduce their attendance in the congregational prayers,” Rehman said. He said that the Sindh government should abandon the hypocrisy and announce a firm decision regarding the closures of mosques. Pesh-e-imams and mosque neither will resist nor unlock the seal,” said Rehman. “But the government will have to face its repercussions.” He said that no one can guarantee that the campaign will end on April 5. “It seems that coronavirus will only enter mosques, not in grocery stores and TV channels that are open to the public,” he said.

The JUI-F Sindh’s secretary-general also Rashid Mehmood Soomro has condemned the arrest of the clerics and said that it was the duty of law enforcement agencies to stop worshippers from going to mosques. “Despite the ban and arranging limited gatherings on the eve of Friday prayers, a large number of cases were registered against the clerics across the province, including Karachi.

A significant number of them have also been arrested, who will be bailed out from courts on Monday,” Soomro told The News. He said that the JUI-F is supporting the government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus. “Mosques are open and clerics and religious scholars are not inviting people to come to pray there,” he said. “It is the responsibility of law enforcement agencies to stop them.” He demanded that the government should immediately release the clerics and withdraw all cases against them. “Otherwise the party will be forced to announce its strategy against the biased policy of the government” Soomro said.

The Jamaat-e-Islami Sindh has also condemned the arrests and registering of cases against the pesh-e-Imams and said that stopping the worshippers from mosques is tantamount to inviting Allah’s wrath.

Muhammad Hussain Mehanti, the JI Sindh chief, demanded the government to open mosques so the people could pray to Allah to get rid of the pandemic. “We understand that Pakistan and the entire world is passing through a critical time because of the pandemic and religious parties are helping the people through mosques to make them aware about precautionary measures,” said Mehanti, who is also a former MNA from Karachi. “But without consultation with religious parties, the government's announcement to ban the Friday prayers and putting the mosques under lock is to invite Allah’s wrath.” He demanded the government to revise its decision to ban the prayer congregations, release the pesh-e-imams and withdraw cases against them.