The Covid related SOPs, agreed upon by the government and the religious scholars, are being flouted at most mosques and imambargahs in the provincial metropolis. Who’s to blame for this?
Amid growing calls to be more vigilant and careful during the second wave of the pandemic, which is said to be more lethal than the first, it has been observed that the SOPs, agreed upon by the government and mosque managements, are being flouted at most mosques and imambargahs in the provincial metropolis. Sadly, the police as well as the city administration have assumed the role of a silent spectator. At least they appear unmindful of the fact that they are responsible for ensuring implementation of the SOPs.
It is feared that mosques and imambargahs could turn out to be hotspots for the spread of the novel coronavirus in the city. On Friday last, most mosques in Lahore witnessed large numbers of the faithful who seemed to have put aside all safety precautions, especially during the congregations. Mask wearing was rare and the places were crowded.
Only a few mosques, including the Badshahi Masjid, were found observing the SOPs, even if partially. At some places, the Friday prayers were performed with no carpets on the floors and social distancing was observed. At many places, mosque administrations had marked the spots (to ensure social distancing), but the namazis didn’t follow the SOPs when the prayer leaders asked them to get closer to one another as per Sunnah.
The situation raises many a question about the performance and capability of the police and city administration.
During the first wave of Covid-19, earlier this year, the police not only made regular visits to mosques, but were also in contact with the managements. This is no longer the case.
The Pakistan Ulema Council and the Wafaqul Masajid Madaris-i-Pakistan assert that coronavirus protocols are being observed at 70 percent of their mosques and imambargahs.
It is clear that the law enforcing authorities need to do a lot more for the health and safety of the citizens. Talking to TNS, Deputy Commissioner Mudassar Riaz says: “All-out efforts are being made to ensure that the people follow the SOPs at public places, including places of worship.”
He claims that the SOPs are being enforced in markets, marriage halls and restaurants. “Hundreds of shops are being shuttered on daily basis and fines imposed.”
According to Riaz, awareness campaigns have also been launched to sensitise the people about the importance of the SOPs. He also says that masks have been distributed among the citizens.
The mosques that are seeing the most violations have been categorised as B and C. Those showing 100 percent compliance fall in A-category. These include the grand or Jamia mosques such as the Badshahi Masjid, Masjid Wazir Khan, Data Darbar and Masjad-i-Shuhada.
“The ulema have been requested to emphasise the need for mask wearing and social distancing at the mosques. The assistant commissioners are keeping tabs on them,” he adds.
Dr Iqbal Khawaja, the Lady Aitchison Hospital medical superintendent, says the second wave of coronavirus is deadlier than the first one. “People should not take it easy. They must follow the SOPs issued by the government to contain the spread of the virus. If they flout guidelines and protocols for treatment, then there’ll be no stopping the pandemic,” he says.
Operations SSP Ahsan Saifullah says that the city has a total of 4,702 mosques which have been divided into A, B and C categories to ensure enforcement of the SOPs. He says 190 of the mosques are in A-category, 666 in B- and 3,846 in C-category.
He says the mosques seeing the most violations have been categorised as B and C. Those showing 100 percent compliance fall in A-category. These include the grand or Jamia mosques such as the Badshahi Masjid, Masjid Wazir Khan, the Data Darbar and the Masjid-i-Shuhada.
The SSP says 25 percent of the SOP violations have been reported in Category B mosques and 30 percent in the Category C mosques. “The police are shifting their focus to the mosques that fall in B and C categories. These [mosques] are usually located in narrow streets and dense localities.
“The police are closely monitoring [the mosques]. No one is allowed to flout the guidelines. The people must understand that ignoring these is tantamount to endangering their lives and the lives of others.”
The writer is a senior journalist and can be reached at [email protected]