Section 144 imposed on mosque activities in Islamabad

Published March 23, 2020
General view of the deserted Grand Faisal Mosque on March 22 amid concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus.  — AFP
General view of the deserted Grand Faisal Mosque on March 22 amid concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: The capital administration has imposed section 144 to ban all activities in mosques after sealing two in the Bhara Kahu area.

The restriction has been imposed for a week, and all gatherings related to Shab-i-Meraj have been stopped as well. This move will also stop group sittings of the Tableeghi Jamaat, after one foreign participant tested positive for Covid-19.

Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat has criticised the casual attitude of the cleric of the mosque where the patient and his group were staying.

On Twitter on Sunday, Mr Shafqaat said: “Terrible lapse and criminal carelessness on part of the khateeb and Tableeghi Jamat. They knew that one of them had symptoms and they kept on roaming around.”

A member of the Tableeghi Jamaat staying at a mosque in the area has tested positive for Covid-19

Speaking to Dawn, Mr Shafqaat said that the mosques where the Jamaat was staying were disinfected and then sealed. The patient, who is from Kyrgyzstan, has been taken to a quarantine facility set up at the Haji Camp.

The other members of the cohort have been quarantined in the same sealed mosque, Bilal Masjid, where they had initially been staying.

Situated outside main Islamabad, Bhara Kahu is a densely populated area and the authorities are concerned that the coronavirus could spread in that part of the capital.

The administration is already facing resistance from some clerics about implementing the precautions and guidelines issued by the authorities to prevent the spread of the virus.

Among those openly opposing government directives is Maulana Abdul Aziz, who ridiculed prevention measures during the Friday sermon at Lal Masjid. Footage of him mixing with people after Friday prayers has also circulated on social media.

In the wake of the pandemic, the administration and police have lifted the blockade around the state-owned Lal Masjid, which is currently occupied by Mr Aziz and students of the Jamia Hafsa seminary.

The police have been tasked with persuading clerics to tell people to pray at home instead of visiting the mosque every time.

Qari Ajmal, thekhateebof Bilal Masjid, said: “While the Jamaat was staying in Makki Masjid, our brother and guest Abdul Momin developed some nausea, headache and allergy symptoms, and was taken to Pims by one of the local members of the Tableeghi Jamaat where he was tested.”On March 21, authorities called the person who brought Mr Momin to Pims, and learned that the group had moved to Bilal Masjid on March 20.

“They came with the assistant commissioner, police and ambulances as if there was some trouble around here and sealed the two mosques,” Mr Ajmal said.A senior capital administration official said that the Ministry of Interior is reviewing the situation and planning measures regarding mosques following the Bhara Kahu incident. However, there is no immediate decision to shut down mosques in the city.

“Section 144 does not apply to prayers in mosques, and the decision to stop collective prayers or shut down mosques can only be taken by the interior ministry,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2020

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