Pakistanis ignore president's call to pray at home amid virus scare

Men leave Jamia Aqsa Mosque in Karachi after congregational Friday prayer on Feb. 28, 2020. (AN photo)
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Updated 15 March 2020

Pakistanis ignore president's call to pray at home amid virus scare

  • President Arif Alvi asked people with flu symptoms to avoid public gatherings
  • Worshippers say they don't panic as the coronavirus fatality rate is only 2 percent

KARACHI: Pakistani mosques were thronged with people who arrived for congregational prayers on Friday, despite President Arif Alvi’s appeal to all those with flu symptoms to stay at home in the wake of coronavirus reports in the country.
“I have flu, but it’s normal, so I came to the mosque,” Muhamamd Saqlain, a 20-year-old worshiper at Jamia Aqsa Mosque in Karachi told Arab News.
Others too arrived to offer prayers, citing their religious obligation.
“We don’t need masks. All people are healthy, and we just cannot skip our Friday prayers over coronavirus fears,” said Irfan Ali, another member of the congregation.
On Thursday evening, President Alvi called on all worshippers with symptoms of illness to refrain from joining public gatherings to avoid posing a health threat to others.
“People who have fever cough shortness of breath or any flu symptom should avoid going to public gatherings,” the president said in a Twitter post, adding that he had sought advice from religious scholars and those who are unwell should perform their prayers at home.

The plea came after first coronavirus infections were reported in Pakistan on Wednesday, but it was not convincing to most people.
Jaffar Askari, a Karachi University employee who usually attends Friday prayers at Imambargah, said the president’s request and the news of virus infections had no impact on prayer attendance.
“People no longer panic knowing that the coronavirus fatality rate is only 2 percent,” he said.
“If I am in trouble, where should I go? I will go to the mosque. I pray and hope that God will protect me from all fatal diseases,” 60-year-old Mumtaz Shah told Arab News.
Dr. Amir Tauseen, a religious scholar and former chairman of Madrassa Education Board, told Arab News that calls concerning religious duties should come from the Council of Islamic Ideology rather than the president.
“The president should act responsibly and tweet anything after taking religious scholars and the Council of Islamic Ideology on board,” he told Arab News, but added that it was not wrong to ask persons with illness symptoms to offer prayers at home and scholars have made such requests before.


General Bajwa, Bill Gates discuss Pakistan’s anti-polio campaign 

Updated 18 min 29 sec ago

General Bajwa, Bill Gates discuss Pakistan’s anti-polio campaign 

  • The American business tycoon praises the army for supporting the anti-polio drive and ensuring its reach and coverage 
  • The army chief passes on the credit to ‘grassroots workers’ 

ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa and American business tycoon and philanthropist Bill Gates spoke on telephone about Pakistan’s COVID-19 response and resumption of anti-polio campaign, said an official handout prepared and circulated by the military’s public relations wing, ISPR, on Saturday.
Gates applauded the Pakistan Army for supporting the anti-polio drive and ensuring the program’s proper reach and coverage.
In response, the army chief said that the effort to make Pakistan polio-free was a “national cause,” adding that the credit for running an effective campaign went to “grassroots workers, including mobile teams, law enforcement agencies and healthcare representatives.”
The two also discussed how to carry out a safe anti-polio drive for everyone amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“​Mr. Gates also appreciated Pakistan’s success against COVID-19 despite resource constraints,” said the statement. “The COAS attributed the success to a true national response executed through the mechanism of [National Command and Operation Center] which allowed optimization of resources.”
The American businessman reiterated the Gates Foundation’s ongoing commitment “to fight pandemics” around the world and to support Pakistan in its goals of ending polio and improving health for every child.