ISLAMABAD/Karachi                   -            The federal government has decided to restrict Friday congregational prayers and extended the closure of educational institutions across Pakistan till May 31 due to the ongoing pandemic.

In consultation with the provinces the government has decided to extend the closure of educational institutions across Pakistan from April 5 to May 31, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiative Asad Umar said while briefing media regarding the decisions taken by Nation Coordination Committee. Earlier this month was decided to close the educational institution across Pakistan till April 5.

The Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noor ul Haq Qadri, Special Assistant on Information Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, Special Assistant on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza and Chairman NDMA Lt. Gen. Muhammad Afzal also accompanied the Planning Minister.

Asad Umar said that a national strategy is being fully implemented to cope with the threat of coronavirus pandemic. The planning minister further said that there is no shortage of wheat flour in the country as 1.7 million tons of wheat stock is available in the country.

He said that it has been decided the provinces will be given representation in the National Command Center. For better coordination it has also been decided that the representatives of Federal government will also be sitting in NCC. Asad Umar also said that Prime Minister will announce two big initiatives within next couple of days.

Regarding the NCC decision for restraining Friday prayers, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Dr Noor-ul-Haq Qadri said that it has been decided to ‘restrain’ Friday congregational prayers. Only mosques’ administration staff and a limited number of worshippers will be allowed to pray inside mosques. Mosques will not be closed but prayers and zikr will continue inside them, he clarified adding that the decision had been taken in consultation with Ulema belonging to various schools of thought.

Dr Qadri said that Ulema have been told to tell people to pray inside their homes. It is not only the job of the government to control coronavirus but also of the people.

He said that various programmes, classes and examinations across various religious seminaries across the country had been postponed in light of the outbreak. The Federal minister for religious affairs said that the government was in constant touch with the Saudi foreign office. “Saudi authorities have asked us not to take any final steps [regarding Hajj agreement] before they give the green signal,” Dr Qadri added. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will take the final decision on Hajj 2020 after holding consultations with the heads of various Islamic countries, he maintained.

Speaking on the occasion, Special Assistant on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza said essential medical supplies to the country are in pipeline and situation will remarkably improve regarding their availability by 5th of next month.

The religious minister said, “We are not going to close masajid, there will be azan, recitations of Quran and azkars but as far Juma and other obligatory prayers are concerned it be limited. The prayer leader, people of masjid administration, those adults who are regularly coming to masjid should be allowed to join the congressional prayers. However children, sick people and people above 50 years should pray at home with their families.

The Sindh government on Thursday suspended Friday prayers across the province in order to contain the spread of deadly coronavirus.

Spokesperson for the Sindh government Barrister Murtaza Wahab made the announcement on Twitter and urged the people to strictly follow the guidelines. He said that the decision to this effect was taken after consulting religious leaders and health experts.

In a tweet, he further said that the people will not be allowed to offer collective prayers including Friday prayers in mosques. Only five people including mosque staff will be permitted to offer congregational prayers, he added. He also said that it was a big decision taken by the Sindh government to control the spread of coronavirus.

The Sindh government’s decision to suspend Friday prayers came only a few hours after the federal government said that mosques would remain open and congregational prayers would be offered but in limited numbers.