Keeping in view the religious sentiments of people attached with worship during the month of Ramzan, the government has accepted the demands of clerics and lifted the lockdown on mosques for the holy month. To ensure that the coronavirus pandemic does not spiral out of control, the government has introduced a 20-point plan that needs to be observed to keep mosques safe. That being said, it is not clear who will enforce the necessary measures within the premises.

There are several pertinent questions that need to be answered. The preceding lockdown saw resistance from mosque administrations around the country. Will they now cooperate with the authorities? Who exactly has been tasked to ensure compliance? There are thousands of mosques in each province. How will the provincial governments supervise each and every one of them to ensure that the 20-point plan is being followed? How will mandatory distancing of six feet be made possible when many mosques tend to be packed to capacity during Ramzan? Will the mosque administration turn people away once capacity is reached? Or will the authorities perform this unenviable task? And when they do, will the mosque administration cooperate with them to persuade citizens?

The fact is that none of this can be achieved without the full cooperation of clerics, who will need to work with the authorities. There is no denying the fact that opening up mosques carries obvious risks. The health and safety of prayergoers, and prayer leaders, is a collective responsibility. It is also in the hands of the persons themselves, as they are best placed to protect themselves and their fellow prayergoers by adhering strictly to the guidelines, and not treating them as an inconvenience.

By acting quickly, the government has so far been relatively successful in containing the virus. Pakistan has fared far better than expected during the initial days of the outbreak. Easing the lockdown threatens to undo all that good work. The margin of error is so low that even a slight miscalculation can have devastating effects. Therefore, the government is advised to closely monitor the situation and not shy away from reviewing its decisions, if such is warranted by facts on ground.