KARACHI                 -                 The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday issued notices to the Sindh Chief Secretary and other official respondents to furnish their response on a petition against the provincial government’s “failure” to ensure implementation of the Centre’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for congregational prayers.

Headed by Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, a division bench of the high court was hearing the petition that also sought to strike down the 18th constitutional amendment. It directed the respondents to come up with their replies by May 7.

During the course of the hearing, Justice Mazhar said the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) devised at a national level should be implemented, questioning why mosques were being shut in the province.

He further questioned why the SOPs devised by President Arif Alvi after a meeting with ulema were not being followed.

A petition was then filed against the provincial government’s move in the Sindh High Court which was heard on Tuesday.

The petition argued that the Sindh Government was citing the 18th Amendment for not following the federal government’s order, therefore, the amendment should be nullified under Article 199 of the Constitution.

It said the authorities were stopping worshippers from entering mosques and thus, depriving them of their constitutional right.

“We don’t know what happens to the Sindh Chief Minister. He stands at night and says congregational Friday prayers will not be allowed in mosques. The police are booking worshippers under terrorism acts,” the petition stated.

The petitioner stated before the judges that the Sindh Government doesn’t act upon the Centre’s directives, citing the 18th constitutional amendment and requested the court to declare it void.

At this, Justice Mazhar observed the SHC lacks the powers to strike down the constitutional amendment as it was up to members of the legislatures to enact legislation. He added the court could not issue any orders with regard to the amendment.

Subsequently, the petitioner took back his plea for annulment of the constitutional amendment.

Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar reprimanded the Sindh Government for “deviating” from the SOPs that were set by the president. “Why are all mosques being closed? Shouldn’t only those mosques be shut where SOPs are not being followed?” the judge asked the Additional Advocate General.

Before the beginning of Ramazan, the Centre and top Islamic clerics agreed on holding congregational Taraweeh prayers in mosques across the country. It was decided that Taraweeh would take place with a gap of at least two people between worshipers.

However, the Sindh government held a separate meeting with Ulemas in the province and agreed on suspending Taraweehs for Ramazan to stem the increasing coronavirus infections.

The court, however, remarked that it was not authorised to nullify an amendment and that the lawmakers in the National Assembly should look into the matter. The petition was then withdrawn.