Pakistan to observe 'Day of Prayer' every Friday to seek mercy against COVID-19

A child prays during Friday prayers at the Jamia Mosque during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Rawalpindi on April 3, 2020. (AFP/File)
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Updated 04 December 2020

Pakistan to observe 'Day of Prayer' every Friday to seek mercy against COVID-19

  • Ulema assure President Alvi mosque administrations will ensure social distancing during congregational prayers
  • Alvi says mosques and media have important role in raising awareness about COVID-19 health guidelines

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani president Dr. Arif Alvi has said starting December 4, ‘Youm-e-Dua,’ or day of prayer, would be observed every Friday to seek god’s mercy to protect people against the novel coronavirus.
He announced this after a delegation of ulema met him at the president house on Thursday, saying a 20-point Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) plan announced in April needed to be implemented to overcome a second wave of the coronavirus currently sweeping through Pakistan.
“The President mentioned that ulema had assured that the mosque administrations would ensure the proper safe-distancing during congregational prayers,” state news agency APP said. “The SOPs regarding mosques included proper distance among worshippers, disinfecting carpets and floors, ablution at homes before coming to mosques and bringing own prayer rugs.”
Alvi said mosques and the media had an important role to play in raising awareness about the importance of COVID-19 SOPs.
Government data released on Friday showed Pakistan had recorded 55 COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, as the nationwide tally of fatalities jumped to 8,260 and infections reached 410,072.
After a peak of over 6,800 daily infections in June, the number fell to a low of 213 in August, and remained below 700 for most of the last three months. But there has been a sharp rise in new cases since last month.
Earlier this month, the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan ruled out a complete lockdown and decided to continue the “smart lockdown” policy with strict implementation of safety guidelines.
The country’s last comprehensive lockdown was lifted in May.

Lawyer for Daniel Pearl's family faces uphill legal fight

Updated 3 min 31 sec ago

Lawyer for Daniel Pearl's family faces uphill legal fight

  • Faisal Siddiqi says overturning even the kidnapping for ransom charge will send Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh back to death row
  • Sheikh, who allegedly lured Pearl to his death, was acquitted in April due to insufficient evidence

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani lawyer for the family of slain American journalist Daniel Pearl faces an uphill battle to overturn the acquittal of a British-born man convicted in the 2002 murder.

That's because the prosecutor in the original case tried all four men — including Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the man believed to have lured Pearl to his death — as one, with the same charges against all even though each played a different role.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Faisal Siddiqi, the lawyer for Pearl’s family, said that although the initial prosecution had painted the four defendants with the same brush, “You don’t, because of doubt in one or two or three pieces (of evidence), acquit them all.”

The four men were acquitted in April on the grounds that the initial prosecution’s evidence was insufficient. Siddiqi said his argument now before the Supreme Court, Pakistan's highest, is that conspiracy, kidnapping for ransom and murder deserve separate consideration.

Siddiqi said the Supreme Court hearing to overturn the acquittals will resume Tuesday, and most likely reach its conclusion before the end of January. Both the Pearl family as well as Pakistan’s government separately have appealed the acquittals.

Siddiqi said overturning even the kidnapping for ransom charge would send Sheikh back to death row, where he'd been since his conviction in 2002. He was transferred to a jail in the port city of Karachi in Sindh province, after the Sindh High Court overturned his conviction. The three others charged in Pearl's murder — Fahad Naseem, Adil Sheikh and Salman Saqib — were acquitted on all charges.

Sheikh was sentenced to death, and the other three to life in prison for their roles in Pearl's murder.

Siddiqi said he’s argued that the judges have a duty to both the accused and the victim, and while “no innocent person should be convicted ... no guilty person should be set free.”

The Pearl family’s lawyer said the overwhelming sentiment is “whenever there is a doubt, let us free the accused, never thinking what happened to the victim,” adding that he's asking the judges to “restore the balance between the accused and the victim.”

The acquittal outraged the United States, and last month the US warned it won’t allow Sheikh to escape justice. Acting US Attorney General Jeffery Rosen praised Pakistan for appealing the Sindh court’s order but said if “those efforts do not succeed, the United States stands ready to take custody of Omar Sheikh to stand trial” in America.

Sheikh remains in jail even as the Sindh High Court last month ordered him freed while the appeal is being heard. Sheikh's lawyer, Mehmood A. Sheikh, no relation, has taken the demand for his client's freedom to the Supreme Court. Until now it has not ruled on the release.

Siddiqi said the prosecutor in Sheikh's original trial was held under considerable duress caused by militant Islamists, who issued threats to the attorney general, and which even forced the court hearing to be held within the confines of the jail.

Sheikh was convicted of helping lure Pearl to a meeting in Karachi, where he was kidnapped. Pearl had been investigating the link between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, dubbed the “Shoe Bomber” after trying to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes.

A gruesome video of Pearl’s beheading was sent to the US Consulate. The 38-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter from Encino, California was abducted Jan. 23, 2002.