In Pakistan's fight against Covid-19, religion might not be helping. CNN
JOIN US ON:
Pakistan is entering its fifth week under lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus. But as the Islamic holy month of Ramadan starts this weekend, hundreds of thousands of people will congregate in mosques nationwide to offer special prayers.
The government's submission to demands from senior clerics and religious political parties for mosque exemptions highlights that Pakistan's fight against Covid-19 is more about managing political divides than saving lives.
As of Saturday, the country of more than 200 million people had at least 11,900 confirmed cases and 253 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. That's more than double the number of cases and deaths the country had on April 13.
Despite this steady increase, the religious establishment has remained skeptical of the government's pandemic response. Hardline clerics urged worshipers to defy restrictions first imposed in March and gather in mosques in great numbers. Congregations attacked police officers deployed to enforce the lockdown. The onset of Ramadan -- and the promise of generous charitable contributions by worshipers to mosques as part of holy month observances -- spurred religious groups to intensify pressure on the government, with the latter caving to avoid the political fallout.
The Pakistan Medical Association has denounced the decision to permit congregations, saying that protocols agreed between the government and religious groups -- including requirements for worshipers to remain six feet apart and complete ablutions at home -- are unlikely to be implemented. Doctors, who have already threatened to walk off the job owing to a lack of medical and protective equipment, say the health system will not cope if the virus spreads any faster during Ramadan.