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July 15, 2020

Large wedding gatherings won’t be allowed at home or anywhere else, says info minister

Karachi

July 15, 2020

Sindh’s information and local government minister has said that the Sindh government will make sure that there is no violation of the ban on weddings anywhere in the province so as to avoid large gatherings as part of the lockdown against the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“The only exception to this ban are the gatherings held on a limited scale inside homes to solemnise marriages, but the government will ensure implementation of the ban on wedding feasts,” said Syed Nasir Hussain Shah.

The minister made these remarks while holding talks with the representative body of the owners of wedding halls in Karachi at the office of the city commissioner on Tuesday. Shah said the provincial government is well aware of the sufferings of those associated with the business of wedding halls in the city, but these activities need to remain suspended because there will be no compromise on the health and lives of the people at risk of contracting COVID-19.

He said the government knows very well about the adverse impacts of the health emergency on the different segments of trade and economy, which has resulted in unemployment, but the situation is the same the world over.

He also said the Sindh government is fully adhering to the lockdown policy recommended by the federal administration, so wedding halls need to remain closed as part of the countrywide precautionary measures against the pandemic.

The minister said the owners of wedding halls will be free to reopen their businesses without seeking any further permission from the provincial government whenever the Centre’s lockdown policy allows the resumption of their business.

He said consultations are still under way with stakeholders of different segments of society that are still closed as part of the lockdown measures. The Sindh government cannot make a decision about the reopening of these segments without the Centre’s or the apex judiciary’s orders, he added.

He also said the Sindh government has thought of a number of relief measures for small businesses in view of their losses due to the lockdown. He added that the provincial government stands with the traders, and together they will defeat the pandemic.

Commissioner Iftikhar Ali Shallwani said that a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) will have to be complied with whenever weddings halls are given the green light to resume business. He said the government machinery will come into action whenever any violation of the SOPs is detected during a wedding.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Marriage Hall Owners Association President Rana Raees claimed that they were assured by the government that they will be granted permission to reopen their businesses by August 2.

He said they have been asked to submit their recommendations for the SOPs to be devised for weddings, adding that they are bound to comply with the precautionary measures to be issued by the government. He also thanked the Sindh government for holding the talks.

A day earlier, wedding hall owners had announced reopening their businesses themselves on August 2 as they gathered outside the Karachi Press Club to protest against the ban on their operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic since the past three months.

Raees told the media that since the imposition of the lockdown, wedding halls had been closed across the country. However, he pointed out, the government later allowed many other businesses to operate under SOPs, but even then wedding halls were not allowed to be reopened.

Talking to The News, he said that after their protest, they were called to the Commissioner Office, but after keeping them waiting for two hours, only the South deputy commissioner showed up and gave them time for Tuesday.

Despite their repeated demands, he said, wedding hall owners had not been permitted to reopen their businesses. He lamented that wedding halls owners were going bankrupt due to the continuous closure of their businesses. He demanded that the government allow them to operate under SOPs.

He remarked that due to the closure of wedding halls, it was not only the owners and employees that were facing problems but also the related businesses such as caterers and florists. Employees of various wedding halls in the city have been laid off and have no other source of income, said Raees. “They are at a point where they have nothing to feed their children,” he said, adding that wedding hall owners across the country were protesting for their rights.

He said the government should allow wedding halls to operate under SOPs, and if any wedding hall owner failed to comply with them, the government or the district administration must take action against them.