Islamabad [Pakistan], April 19 (ANI): Pakistan President Arif Alvi has announced that congregational prayers, including Taraweeh [evening] and Friday prayers, will be held in mosques across Pakistan during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins next week, Arab News reported.
The political leaders of Pakistan seem to have once again loosened its leash before its fundamental clerics, as the announcement came shortly after the president held a video conference with clerics to discuss the issue of mosque gatherings in the holy month, amid rising cases of the coronavirus disease in Pakistan.
A day earlier, Alvi held consultative talks on the subject with religious and political leaders, including Jamaat-i-Islami chief, Senator Sirajul Haq, and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
"This is conditional permission for Taraweeh and Friday prayers in congregations in the mosques," Alvi announced, and said 20 guidelines had been mutually agreed with the clerics which included keeping six feet distances between worshippers, the removal of carpets, disinfection of mosque floors and cooperation with authorities.
The government has been striving to discourage religious leaders from holding prayer gatherings in mosques amid the pandemic, but around the country, including in the capital, people gathered for Friday prayers with senior clerics openly defying government orders.
"Ramadan is a month of forgiveness and salvation," Alvi said, while adding that he was hopeful all preventive measures would curb the spread of COVID-19 during the holy month.
Other countries in the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have also called off religious congregations at mosques and announced Taraweeh prayers to be performed at home as preventive measures to contain the contagion spread.
Saudi Arabia in mid-March stopped people performing their five daily prayers and the weekly Friday prayer inside mosques as part of efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Prophet Muhammad's mosque in Medina last week said it was banning events which dispense evening meals to those in need during Ramadan to break their daily fast.
The kingdom has reported 6,380 cases of COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, and 83 deaths so far.
Last week, the Kingdom also extended a curfew in Riyadh, and other big cities for 24 hours of the day for an indefinite period amid a surge of new infections.
As of Saturday, Pakistan recorded 7,481 cases of COVID-19, with 143 deaths. As part of containment measures, the country has been forced to take stringent steps including the partial lockdown of cities and closure of schools and offices except for a few sectors -- bringing its economy to a virtual halt.
Despite surging cases people in the country, especially the Islamic clerics, have still not taken the pandemic seriously and are refusing to stop religious congregations.
While the local government announced the closure of mosques in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan, earlier this month, Pakistan's most populous province of Punjab - with over 110 million inhabitants - allowed mosques to still remain open.
The clerics, however, have agreed to take precautionary measures like use of hand sanitisers, removal of rugs and carpets, washing of floors, cleaning of hands with soaps and social distancing. But it is to see how the country tackles the contagious outbreak with such aperture. (ANI)