ALONG with being a key religious festival and cultural event, the Eidul Azha sacrifice is a major engine of economic activity in Pakistan, with a multibillion-rupee economy of its own. From livestock traders to butchers and the tanning industry, all have major stakes in the sale of sacrificial animals. However, this year — like all other areas of life — routine religious and economic activities related to Eidul Azha will have to adapt to the reality of the novel coronavirus. Primarily, the authorities will need to prevent big gatherings in livestock markets where men and beasts in large numbers converge. As experts have warned, this is a matter of great concern where the spread of Covid-19 in the country is concerned. The prime minister himself has said that if people are ‘careless’ during Eidul Azha the number of cases in the country could spike, while some doctors’ associations have called for cattle markets not to be held. Meanwhile, the National Command and Operation Centre on Monday decided to allow smaller livestock markets — but greater in number apparently to prevent crowding — on the outskirts of cities, with ‘strict’ SOPs in place.
While on paper this seems like a workable solution to balance religious and economic requirements with precautions against the virus, the fact of the matter is that SOPs are widely being flouted across the country where markets have been set up. With Eid just over two weeks away, the authorities must enforce the SOPs to ensure that those rushing towards livestock mandis don’t become super spreaders of Covid-19 upon their return to their neighbourhoods. Children must strictly be kept away from the markets, and instead of whole brigades descending upon mandis to choose an animal, one person should be enough. Moreover, there is wisdom in the suggestion of offering collective sacrifice to streamline matters, while organising qurbani in mohallas and on the streets should strictly be off limits this year to prevent the spread of the virus and to maintain hygiene.
Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2020