A moot point

May 24, 2020

Will Eid congregations be allowed to take place like before, or will the city administration and police successfully enforce the SOPs regarding public gatherings?

Apparently, the government does not want to offend the religious groups by imposing restrictions on Eid congregations. — Photos by Rahat Dar

As Lahoris bid farewell to the holy month of Ramazan and look to celebrating Eidul Fitr with religious fervour, the city administration and the police seem rather perplexed about how to enforce the standard operating procedures (SOPs) set by the government with regard to Eid-day congregations.

A senior police officer tells TNS, on condition of anonymity, that it has been “conveyed to the high-ups that following the latest decision of the Supreme Court to allow shopping malls to reopen and lift restrictions on businesses, it is virtually beyond our capacity to enforce the SOPs like maintaining a safe distance and wearing face masks and hand gloves in gatherings on the occasion of Eid.”

The official says that religious leaders of various sects have already flouted the guidelines. Processions were taken out on Youm-i-Ali — on 21st of Ramazan — which “added to the problem, prompting followers of other religious groups to mount pressure on the administration to allow shrines of various sufis to reopen. If we use force, the situation might turn into a strife.”

He says that the city police had recently lodged FIRs against some unscrupulous elements for violating the SOPs regarding holding processions. “But the government is quite lenient with them. They fear that a stricter stance could result in a crisis of sorts. Now it’s up to the ulema to appreciate the seriousness of the situation and cooperate with us.”

On the other hand, Operations SSP Faisal Shahzad says, “Foolproof security measures have been adopted by the city police to ensure the safety of lives and property of the citizens. All-out efforts are being made to maintain peace on the auspicious occasion.”

“Heavy contingents of police shall be deployed at the 5,004 mosques, 60 markets, and 189 open places in Lahore where Eid congregations are expected to be held. Over 5,000 cops will be mobilised.”

He says that the police have identified as many as 300 places, including mosques and Imambargahs, as ‘sensitive’. “Heavy contingents of police shall be deployed at the 5,004 mosques, 60 markets, and 189 open places in Lahore where Eid congregations are expected to be held. Over five thousand cops will be mobilised.”

Shahzad also speaks of “steps [being] taken to maintain law and order on Chand Raat.”

Meanwhile, CCPO Zulfikar Hameed has given strict orders to his subordinates “to make sure that people go to bazaars for Eid shopping without any fear.” He says, “Our goal is to provide security to the citizens.”

A large number of cops in plainclothes, besides regular uniformed policemen, shall be deputed at bazaars, markets and religious places such as mosques and Imambargahs to keep watch on any anti-social elements, Hameed adds. “A new mechanism of snap checking has also been finalised to curb the activities of the muggers and bandits during Eid holidays.”

The CCPO, however, is seeking the cooperation of the public in following the coronavirus-related SOPs during the Eid holidays.

Raza Ali, a resident of DHA, says that he had anticipated the public to stay indoors and avoid large gatherings on Eid, but the situation has turned out to be altogether different. “The government has allowed the people to offer their prayers in big congregations at mosques and in open spaces. My fear is that this could lead to a disaster.

“It is our moral and religious obligation to isolate ourselves socially, for our own good and for the good of the society at large.”

Maulana Ashraf Jalali, the leader of Tehreek Labbaik Ya RasoolAllah (TLYR) says, “It is permissible [in Islam] to perform Eidul Fitr prayers at home, in exceptional circumstances. However, once the government lets one religious group take out processions in the city, in stark violation of the SOPs, it has no moral authority to stop us from offering Eid prayers in open spaces or in the mosques.”

So far, he says “we have fully cooperated with the government on this [issue]; we made [wearing] face masks and [practicing] social distancing mandatory at the five daily prayers as well as for Friday prayers. But when we see people violating all SOPs in bazaars and markets, we are justified in asking the authorities if the laws and restrictions are meant only for the faithful.”

Amjad Iqbal, a citizen, says that given the situation “it seems that the [city] administration and the police will have to move heaven and earth if they mean to enforce restrictions. In my opinion, the majority of the citizens will observe Eid as before, without bothering about the SOPs.”

The writer is a senior journalist and can be reached at [email protected]

Will Eid congregations take place with SOPs amid coronavirus pandemic