Facing intense pressure from religious leaders, the Pakistan government has allowed thousands of Tableeghi Jamaat members to hold a three-day gathering in Lahore starting from Friday despite an uptick in the number of new coronavirus cases.
“The government has allowed the Tablighi Jamaat to hold annual religious congregation in Raiwind with the participation of 54,000 followers,” said a handout issued by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government here on Thursday.
It added that the three-day congregation will start on Friday and attendees have started to arrive from across the country. However, no one from outside the country is allowed to participate in the religious gathering, the statement read.
The government said the Covid-19 rules will be strictly followed in the congregation. Children and high-risk adults will not be allowed.
Pakistan has seen a spike in the number of new coronavirus cases after a brief lull in September. The virus death toll stands at 6,893 with over 3.3 lakh confirmed infections.
On Thursday, Pakistan reported 605 new coronavirus recoveries, taking the number of reported cases to 316,665.
Earlier in the year, the Tablighi Jamaat members were criticised for congregating in Lahore. Some 80,000 members of the Jamaat had attended the religious congregation at the Raiwind Markaz earlier in March. A number of new coronavirus cases had surfaced from there.
Prime Minister Imran Khan was slammed on social media for allowing the congregation on Friday.
“On the one hand, we are imposing certain restrictions in the market and educational institutions and on the other we are allowing the Jamaat to gather thousands of people at one place to spread the virus,” PPP Punjab senior leader Usman Malik told PTI.