Pakistani authorities are searching for tens of thousands of worshippers who attended an Islamic gathering in Lahore last month just as the novel coronavirus was taking root in the impoverished nation
Pakistani authorities are searching for tens of thousands of worshippers who attended an Islamic gathering in Lahore last month just as the novel coronavirus was taking root in the impoverished nation
AFP

Lahore: Like in India after the Nizamuddin Markaz congregation, in Pakistan too the Tablighi Jamaat is facing criticism for organising its annual mass assembly at Raiwind Markaz last month in the wake of the outbreak of coronavirus.

According to a Dawn report, the Jamaat organised its annual mass assembly despite strong opposition by the Punjab province government.

The outlet citing a report by the Punjab Special Branch, stated that around 70,000-80,000 members of the organisation gathered to participate in a congregation on March 10. The Jamaat's management are claiming that over 2,50,000 people participated in its annual event.

The congregation was also attended by 3000 people who had arrived from 40 countries and who could not go back because Pakistan halted all international flights due to worsening pandemic situation.

The Jamaat has been criticized in India and Malaysia after several of its members tested positive for the coronavirus leading to a surge in a number of cases.

So far, Pakistan has reported 4196 confirmed positive cases of coronavirus and 60 deaths in the country have been linked to the deadly infection.

The virus had already adversely affected several countries when its spread began to show presence in Pakistan last month.

The Dawn reported that Raiwind city with a population of around two lakh has been completely locked down after several hundred members of Jamaat tested positive.

Around 10,263 people who attended the gathering last month have been quarantined in 36 districts of Punjab with the search on for thousands of other participants. Of the 539 members of the Tableeghi Jamaat who tested positive for the virus so far, the highest number of cases has been reported from Raiwind Markaz -- 404.

As the Jamaat continued to ignore the instructions, authorities engaged the top administration officials of the organisation and after several meetings, the six-day event was cut short to three days.

"Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Zulfiqar Hameed held meetings with the top admin officials of the Jamaat to engage them when reports emerged that thousands of its members are attending annual event," Saddar Division SP (Operations) Syed Ghazanfar was quoted as saying.

The Lahore Division commissioner and the DIG Operations visited the congregation site and held another round of dialogues with the management, reported Dawn.

"We kept the top management of the Tableeghi Jamaat engaged and finally they cut the six-day event short to three days," Ghazanfar said.

According to him, the majority of them returned to their destinations but around 5,000, including 3,000, foreigners are still there in Markaz.

The organisation has also come under criticism from Punjab Health authorities who have declared that the cases of the virus in the province are rising because of "carelessness" of the Jamaat members "who keep on meeting the public as a part of their preaching after their return to the areas they belonged to." Dawn cited a senior health official as saying the health authorities have "repeatedly requested the Tableeghi Jamaat management to curb its activities and cooperate with them to stop the spread of the virus in Punjab.

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