LAHORE: The Punjab government has decided to reopen shrines for visitor after easing the lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sources said the proposal to reopen the 544 shrines in the province and finalise standard operating procedures (SOPs) for them was presented during a high level meeting in view of demands in this regard by the people.
The Auqaf department is also insisting that the shrines should be reopened as it has so far incurred a loss of Rs260 million due to their closure.
Officials of the Auqaf department said they had sent suggestions to the provincial government to ease the restrictions on visiting the shrines during the lockdown. Proposals in this regard have been sent to the Punjab Home Department.
The sources said the administration of a shrine would have to follow the procedure if visitors gather.
The SOPs and related recommendations will be formulated by the home and health departments.
The participants of the meeting, chaired by Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat, were informed that there are 544 shrines in the province under the auspices of the Auqaf department, which can be opened as per SOPs.
On the occasion, it was decided that steps should be taken to ensure implementation of the SOPs at the shrines.
It is expected that SOPs will be issued after Eid, following recommendations for opening the shrines.
A recommendation to reopen cinema and theatre halls on the occasion of Eidul Fitr was also reviewed. After reviewing the situation regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic, the proposal was rejected.
The cinemas and theatres will remain closed on Eid because the increased number of visitors expected on the occasion may cause spread of the epidemic.
Punjab Home Department sources said it would be impossible to implement the SOPs in cinema and theatre halls so they would remain closed.
Earlier, a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Law and Order, chaired by the law minister, reviewed information received by law enforcement agencies about possible acts of terrorism. Provincial Minister for Labour Ansar Majeed Khan and Minister for Sports and Tourism Timur Ahmad Khan attended the meeting.
Additional Chief Secretary Home Momin Agha, Punjab IG Shoaib Dastgir, the additional IG for CTD, additional IG of Special Branch and other officers gave a briefing.
Divisional commissioners and police officers from across the province gave briefings through video link. Plans were drawn up for the implementation of security and lockdown SOPs for Eid and other important days.
Law Minister Raja Basharat said the existing SOPs for markets and mosques should be strictly observed, especially those regarding the timing, until the guidelines are revised.
He said street crimes in public places and residential areas should be strictly checked, especially on the eve of the Eid.
The minister said the Rawalpindi administration should ensure application of SOPs on tourists going to Murree during the Eid holidays.
All federal and provincial law enforcement agencies should liaise closely to thwart any possible act of sabotage.
The provincial labour minister said every worshiper should be repeatedly informed about the SOPs during Eid and other gatherings, especially regarding face masks, through mosques and cable TV.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2020.