ISLAMABAD (ENNS) “In more than 80% of the mosques of Punjab and Islamabad, imams have failed to implement the government-clergy agreement during the first Taraveeh congregations on Friday evening.” This is the crux of Pattan Development Organisation’s observation exercise – a leading CSO of Pakistan.
The observation was conducted by using a standardized check list. The checklist consists of the following four of the 20 points of the agreement. 1, Tarawih should not be conducted on roads and footpaths. 2, There should be a six-feet distance between worshippers on all four sides. 3, People should not do ablution in mosques. 4, People must wear face masks when coming to mosques.
In total PATTAN trained and deployed 40 observers and each observe visited four to five mosques during the Taraveeh prayers, on 24th April. In total they observed 194 mosques in 15 cities and towns. They also made pictures of violations.
According to the data released by PATTAN, at “96% of the observed mosques people were found praying on footpaths and roads adjacent to the mosques and nearly 89% worshippers didn’t wear face masks.” The data also shows that at “72% and 69% of the observed mosques, the worshipers did not keep six feet distance and were found having ablution in the mosques respectively.”
In very few mosques, some distance was maintained but it was not six feet at all. The photos of Friday prayers clearly established massive violation of this very important mitigation measure. Sadly, in more than two-third of the observed mosques children were also found alongside their elders in the mosques.
Most of our observers reported that local administration and police warned khateebs and imams about the instructions. But it appears that police did not bother to carry out the practice in remote areas and congested neighborhoods. It is also interesting to note that the compliance level was better in bigger/Jamia mosques than the smaller ones, perhaps due to fear of surveillance and reprimand. However, this does not mean that these mosques are less likely to spread the virus.
The violation of the agreement is highly likely to continue in coming days, unless government takes stern action against the violators. And because sufficient evidence is available and the agreement provides legitimacy, government should make places of congregations safe for the public. It is worth highlighting that religious spirituality must not be allowed to cause humanity any harm.
Based on our observation, we also demand of the government and health authorities to disinfect mosques on daily basis. It is highly likely that virus is carried by worshippers to their homes and communities. Therefore, they must also be disinfected at the time of their departure from mosques. Train NGOs and community-based bodies and assign this task to them.
There appears an interesting observation that where compliance was low, the enforcement was also poor. This is indeed a very dangerous situation. Authorities and clerks should know that one infected person can cause massive harm. Since, hundred percent implementation of the agreement is not possible, the best option for Pakistan in our view is to ban the congregational prayers.
The observation was done in Islamabad, Lahore, Faisalabad, Kamalia, Jhang, Layyah, Multan, Toba Tek Singh, Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan, Taunsa, Shorkot, Kot Addu and Ali Pur towns.