Ramazan's moon was sighted on Friday, indicating that Ramazan's holy month will begin in Pakistan starting tomorrow. While provincial leaders turned to Twitter to wish people a blessed Ramazan, they also urged them to pray at home and maintain social distance.
The Ruet-i-Hilal Central Committee had announced Thursday that the Ramazan moon had not been seen in the country. However, the crescent was seen in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where the fasting month began today.
This year, the holy month will be observed amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has stopped most countries. Pakistan is also struggling to meet the challenge by trying to ensure social distancing to curb the spread of the virus while allowing commercial activities and some religious congregations to continue.
Planning Minister Asad Umar announced on Friday that the government decided to extend the national blockade imposed to control the disease in 15 days. The restrictions will remain in effect until May 9.
Punjab Prime Minister Usman Buzdar, wishing that people at the beginning of the holy month would say that the country "expected people to maintain social distancing." In a Twitter post, Buzdar urged people to "prioritize home prayer in Ramazan."
Sindh government spokesman Murtaza Wahab expressed the hope that people will observe Ramazan "protecting the people around him from the coronavirus."
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government spokesman Ajmal Wazir urged the public, religious scholars and other sectors to abide by the precautionary measures put in place by the administration to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.
During a press conference, he also urged the highest-income citizens and philanthropists to help those in need during Ramazan.
The Director General of Public Relations for Intermediate Services (ISPR), Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, during a press conference earlier in the day, urged people to stay restricted and protect themselves from the pandemic. "The next 15 days are crucial. Make your homes your places of worship."
Ruet-i-Hilal Committee Chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman said Thursday that it was mandatory for all imams and mosque administrations to ensure that the government-announced 20-point standard operating procedures (SOPs) are followed for congregational prayers in mosques.
He said that mosque officials should guarantee measures of social distancing and disinfection, and asked the elderly, children and sick people not to visit the mosques. He also said that people will not be allowed to have iftars in the mosques of this Ramazan.
Sindh government restricts Taraweeh's prayers, decides to block POE
Meanwhile, Sindh's chief minister Murad Ali Shah announced on Thursday night that the Taraweeh afternoon prayers during Ramazan will be limited to 3-5 people and the rest of the people will have to offer the prayers at home.
The Sindh government also released details of the closure measures to be taken in the province during the holy month. Are:
- Restriction on residents leaving their homes between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m., with the exceptions provided in the government order of April 14, will continue
- Companies that were allowed to operate between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. will continue. However, milk and dairy stores may remain open until 8 p.m.
- Sales iftar foods such as samosas, pakoras, jalebi, etc., will not be allowed "in any form anywhere." However, these items can be provided through home delivery.
- Restaurants may only operate for home delivery. They can deliver cooked food between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. No takeout or food service will be allowed.
- The Ehteram-e-Ramazan ordinance will be strictly enforced
- Residents will offer Taraweeh prayers at home
- All other restrictions and exceptions provided in the April 14 order will continue.
KP orders stores to close before 4 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government ordered all stores except pharmacies to close at 4 p.m. every day, while take-out food will also be allowed to restaurants until that time.