KARACHI: Eleven prayer leaders and mosque administration members arrested overnight for allegedly violating a ban on Friday congregational prayers were released on bail by different judicial magistrates on Saturday.

Police had detained prayer leaders of different mosques, including of the New Memon Masjid in Saddar, for violating the ban on assembly of the people during the ongoing lockdown by allowing them to gather in the mosque to offer Juma prayers.

They were booked in cases registered under sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Pakistan Penal Code at different police stations.

On Saturday, the investigating officer of the Kharadar police station produced Qari Ikram, Mobin and Ahmed — the prayer leader, muezzin and member of the administration of the New Memon Masjid in Boulton Market — before a judicial magistrate (South) to seek their police remand.

The IO informed the magistrate that the three suspects had allegedly allowed a large number of people to gather at the mosque to offer Friday prayer by violating government restrictions on assembly of citizens imposed in the wake of looming threats of the spread of coronavirus.

Police say 88 FIRs lodged and 38 people held across the city for violating congregational prayer ban

He further alleged that the suspects risked the lives of the citizens and requested for their remand in police custody for investigation.

On the other hand, the defence counsel moved bail applications and requested the magistrate to release them since the offences mentioned in the FIR did not restrict their release on bail.

The magistrate granted them post-arrest bail subject to furnishing of Rs5,000 surety bond each.

The magistrate also directed them to strictly follow the directives issued by the government regarding assembly of the people to halt the spread of Covid-19 during the ongoing lockdown.

The IO was told to submit an investigation report on the next date.

A judicial magistrate (East) also granted post-arrest bail to Syed Afzal Chishti, a prayer leader at a mosque within the remit of the Shah Faisal Colony police station, against a surety bond of Rs10,000 and ordered his release.

The magistrate also directed the prayer leader to comply with the government directives regarding the ban on the assembly of a large number of citizens to save them from the virus.

In Malir, judicial magistrates concerned also granted post-arrest bail to around seven prayer leaders booked for violating the government restrictions with regard to the assembly of worshipers for Friday prayer.

The Shah Latif Town police had detained the seven prayer leaders after they allowed the citizens to offer Friday prayers at their respective mosques violating the ban.

Granting them post-arrest bail against a surety bond ranging up to Rs6,000 each, the magistrates told them to follow the government directives in future.

The investigating officers of the cases were told to submit investigation reports in the relevant cases on the next hearing.

88 FIRs for violating prayer ban 

Earlier on Friday night, the Karachi police lodged 88 FIRs for violating the ban on holding congregational prayers, conducted raids in different parts of the metropolis and detained 38 prayer leaders, muezzins and trustees or members of the mosque committees.

The FIRs were lodged on behalf of the state under Sections 186, 188 and 269 of the PPC read with Section 4 of the Sindh Epidemic Disease Act 2014.

Police sources said that 21 cases were registered in district Central and 23 persons were arrested; 20 FIRs in East and no one was arrested; 12 FIRs in Korangi with two persons held; 16 FIRs in Malir with six persons held, eight FIRs in West and three persons held, three FIRs in South and eight FIRs were lodged in the City district of the police’s organisational structure.

A senior officer said that all schools of thought had allegedly violated the ban on congregational Friday prayers, even those whose religious leaders publicly supported the government decision.

The violation of the ban took place across the city.

Man held for defying lockdown released 

A judicial magistrate ordered release of a suspect detained for allegedly violating the ban on movement under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code during the lockdown in the metropolis.

Ahmed Nawaz, who works at a hair salon, was arrested in the Old Sabzi Mandi area. The magistrate directed the IO to submit an investigation report in the case.

Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2020