Police in Karachi registered 88 First Information Reports (FIRs) and detained 38 prayer leaders on Friday for violating the Sindh government's restrictions on congregational prayers, it emerged on Saturday.
A day earlier, the provincial government had announced that citizens would not be allowed to offer congregational prayers — including Friday prayers — in mosques until April 5 to control the spread of Covid-19.
The FIRs were registered under Sections 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 188 (omission to assist public servant when bound by law to give assistance) and 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 4 of the Sindh Epidemic Disease Act, 2014.
Giving a breakdown of the FIRs, police said that 21 FIRs were registered in district Central with 23 people arrested; 20 FIRs in district East; 12 FIRs in Korangi with two persons held; 16 FIRs in Malir with six people held; eight FIRs in district West with three people held; three FIRs in district South with one arrest; and eight FIRs in City with three arrests.
A senior police officer said that prayer leaders from all schools of thought allegedly violated the ban on congregational prayers, including those whose religious leaders had publicly supported the government's decision.
However, he added that thin attendance was witnessed in the city's mosques on Friday with 100-150 worshippers offering prayers, barring the New Memon Masjid in Bolton Market where 500 people offered the Friday prayers.
Among the persons nominated in the FIRs are the imam, muezzin and mosque caretaker of the New Memon Masjid, and the khateeb of Baitul Salam Masjid in DHA.
Spokesperson for the Sindh government Murtaza Wahab had announced the provincial government's decision to ban congregational prayers in a Twitter post on Thursday in which he said that the decision was taken after consultations with ulema and medical experts.
He had said that only five people including mosque staff would be permitted to offer congregational prayers.
Meanwhile, the Punjab government also arrested five prayer leaders for violating similar restrictions in the province.