Citizens stopped from visiting graveyards

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Police personnel stop people from visiting the H-11 graveyard in Islamabad on the occasion of Shab-i-Barat on Wednesday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Police personnel stop people from visiting the H-11 graveyard in Islamabad on the occasion of Shab-i-Barat on Wednesday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: As part of precautionary measure against Covid-19, a large number of people were not allowed to enter graveyards of federal capital to offer Fateha on the eve of Sheb-i-Barat on Wednesday.

Police officials, deputed outside the H-11 and H-8 graveyards told the visitors that they had been directed by the high-ups not to allow anyone to enter the graveyards.

Directorate of Municipal Administration (DMA) Director Zafar Iqbal said the decision had been taken by the district administration to discourage people from gathering, which was the major source of Covid-19.

A large number of people visit graveyards to offer Fateha at the graves of their loved ones on the eve of Eids and Shab-i-Barat.

However, on Wednesday people were surprised when they came to know that they could not enter the graveyards.

Ehsanullah, a resident of G-8, told Dawn that he was aware that section 144 had been imposed but he could not imagine that even the doors of graveyards would be closed for citizens.

“Initially, it was a shock for me and I was annoyed but later I realised that the step has been taken in the best interest of people. So I offered Fateha from outside the graveyard,” he said.

DMA director Zafar Iqbal told Dawn that the decision to stop people from entering the graveyards had been taken by the district administration and not by Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI).

“But the decision has been taken in the best interest of people so they could be saved from the disease,” he said.

Replying to a question he said the DMA had devised a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for burials of patients of Covid-19.

“We have arranged an ambulance which would be dedicated for the patients died due to Covid-19. We have personal protective equipment and they will be used by the graveyard staff during burials,” he said.

Replying to another question, he said: “We usually get five to six bodies for burials daily and even funeral prayers are held as everyone wants to participate in the burial of their loved ones. However, we suggest them to keep a distance and follow social distancing,” he said. “So far, not a single body of Covid-19 patient has been buried in graveyards of Islamabad,” he said adding a woman died at Shifa International Hospital a few days ago was buried in Rawalpindi.

“Another woman died at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) was shifted to native village,” Mr Iqbal said.

In Rawalpindi too the police and administration stopped the people from entering graveyards due to lockdown.

Besides, no mosque was allowed to arrange special prayers.

Sweet shops which sold traditional food of halwa and Puri from morning to night were closed at 5pm. Mostly people did not distribute the halwa among relatives and neighbours.

People visit graveyards at Raja Zafarul Haq Road, Shah Dian Talian, Dhoke Ratta, Shah Pyaray and New Kattarian.

They complained that it was tradition to go to graveyard on Shahb-i-Barat but the administration stopped them. “It would not have been a gathering rather people would have adopted distance in the graveyard,” said Mohammad Akhter, a visitor to Ratta Amral graveyard.

Raja Ghazanfar, a visitor to Allahabad graveyard, said the government should not have stopped people as all the people did not come at a time.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2020