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Pakistani Clerics Urge Government To Open Up Mosques For Prayers

A Pakistani security official stands guard outside a mosque that was closed for weekly Friday prayers in the northwestern city of Peshawar on April 10.

A prominent Pakistani cleric says a group of religious leaders have demanded authorities relax restrictions on mosque prayers amid the coronavirus crisis.

The request was issued on April 14 at a gathering of the Wafaq-ul-Madaris, a board overseeing official madrassahs across Pakistan, said Maulana Qazi Abdul Rashid, who heads the organization’s Punjab regional branch.

"We are ready to adopt all precautions such as sanitizers, soap and washing hands, but we cannot keep our mosques empty," he told RFE/RL.

Rashid, however, pointed out that the board would not get into a confrontation with the government if authorities didn’t agree with its demand.

Pakistan hasn’t banned mosque prayers amid the coronavirus outbreak. Instead, the government relies on restricting the size of congregations attending mosques and advisories to stay at home from religious groups like the country's Islamic Ideology Council.

Some provinces have issued their own lockdown orders to prevent Muslims from gathering for Friday Prayers.

In southern Sindh province, a complete lockdown is being enforced from noon until 3 p.m., the time when the faithful gather for prayers.

In eastern Punjab province, checkpoints have been set up in major cities to stop people from congregating.

As of April 14, more than 5,700 infections and 96 coronavirus-related deaths were reported by Pakistani authorities.

With reporting by AP