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EDITORIAL: As Eidul Azha approaches, noted Karachi-based religious figures have suggested precautionary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus through the purchase and sale of sacrificial animals. Addressing a news conference on Thursday, flanked by other ulema and clerics, Ruet-i-Hilal Committee Chairman Mufti Munib-ur-Rehman announced special operating procedures (SOPs) for the occasion, agreed upon, according to him, by representatives of all schools of religious thought as well as the government of Sindh. They had held multiple meetings with the provincial government represented by ministers Nasir Hussain Shah and Saeed Ghani, he explained, which helped in devising the SOPs to meet the challenges which could emerge after the Eid amid the coronavirus onslaught. One could not agree more with his assertion that "we need to be cautious and follow those steps which are helpful for everyone."

Towards that end, the ulema offered the advice that the people should go for collective sacrifice of animals, arranged by different welfare/religious organisations instead of doing so at their homes or in their neighbourhoods. The idea may not sit well with those who use the occasion to flaunt their wealth by displaying several sacrificial animals in and around their residences, but it is already a growing trend for being both practical and reasonable. Furthermore, it was decided that all cattle markets would be set up away from the cities or residential areas, in open grounds or within walled premises. With the example of Eidul Fitr fresh in mind when people along with children thronged markets all over the country, causing a significant post-Eid surge in Covid-19 cases, speakers at the news conference asked people not to treat cattle markets as picnic spots, emphasizing that only a restricted number of serious buyers, preferably those that represent the welfare and religious organisations that would arrange collective sacrifice, should visit the markets unaccompanied by children. And the buyers and traders must wear masks and maintain social distance.

Notably, the federal government has also been planning to restrict individual animal sacrifices and put in place a set of SOPs just like the ones announced in Karachi. However, it has taken so long to announce those measures because of a contentious issue raised by clerics who have been demanding the reopening of seminaries that have been closed alongside all educational institutions till August due to the threat of this deadly virus. They of course are interested in having their pupils collect hides to make some money. Federal ministers for religious affairs and interior have been dealing with the issue. They must act with a firm hand, and do what is right rather than allow one or the other pressure group to dictate its terms. No one should be permitted to fritter away the gains, however modest, the smart lockdowns strategy has helped achieve. All must act in the spirit of Eidul Azha and sacrifice any material or political interests for the greater good.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020