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April 5, 2020

Let sense prevail

Editorial

 
April 5, 2020

We now know that the giant Tableeghi Jamaat congregation in Lahore proved to be a focal point from where the coronavirus spread to other parts of the country. The massive annual gathering should simply not have taken place this year. The Punjab government should have stepped in to delay it, in consultation with leaders of the group given the perilous situation – and the leaders themselves should have thought more carefully before placing lives at peril. Of course, the unfortunate participants, many of them uneducated, illiterate and poor, had less tools at their disposal to understand this. From Raiwind, the virus spread to Sanghar, Thatta, Banu, Barha kahu and other locations across the country. The people who lived there have faced additional lockdowns and restrictions. This is simply an outcome of a lack of foresight and good sense.

In this context, the Sindh government’s decision to enforce a complete lockdown in major cities between 12 noon and 3pm on Fridays to prevent Friday congregations is wise. As the Sindh government has pointed out, this Friday mosques remained open, azaans were heard and those employed within masjids were permitted to pray together, keeping the number between three and five people for the gathering. This did lead to angry confrontations in a few places in Karachi and Hyderabad, and also elsewhere in the country where attempts were made to limit the size of gatherings. The police, who have the unenviable task of regulating these temporary orders, bore the brunt of mob anger in some places. We do not wish to see this again and again, each Friday, over the coming weeks and months. There is no way of seeing how long the corona threat will haunt us or what toll it will take. It is time that senior clerics themselves took the initiative. A few have already done so, but the number is too limited. Others, including senior imams at mosques, need to advise people of the need to avoid any kind of gathering, especially when it consists of a large number of people. If the most holy mosques in the world can be closed down and orders against gatherings for prayers imposed around the world, there is no reason why we cannot exercise the same caution. Our ulema must take the lead in ensuring this and by doing so protecting lives.