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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

COVID-19: Will the government reopen marriage halls?

The Marriage Halls Association has threatened to hold protests across the country if they are not allowed to resume their business. Will the government reopen marriage halls under strict SOPs? Experts fear that the SOPs may not be properly followed,

The Marriage Halls Association will hold protests against the closure of wedding lawns during the lockdown enforced to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. As Pakistan appears to have contained the COVID-19 outbreak, stakeholders from various segments of the society are demanding the reopening of their businesses in order to revive the economy. It is to be seen whether the government will succumb to their pressure and reopen marriage halls or not.

Rana Raes, the association’s presidents, said they will stage protest demonstrations in front of press clubs to press the government to allow them to reopen marriage halls under SOPs. He threatened that protesters will march towards the chief minister’s house if their demands are not met.

The decision to hold protests was made at an emergency video-link meeting of representatives of wedding lawn owners’ body from across the country on July 5. During the meeting, they deliberated on the issue of closure of marriage halls across the country.

Rana Raes had regretted in a statement that the government has turned a deaf ear to their demands despite being repeatedly approached. He assured that protesters will abide by Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) during their protest.

Lately, Workers of Karachi Marriage Halls Labour Union had staged a protest at Five Star Chowrangi of Karachi, demanding reopening of marriage halls. The protesters, including women and children, staged a sit-in at Five Star Chowrangi against closure of wedding halls during the lockdown, imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More: COVID-19: Private schools cannot fire students over non-payment of fees, SHC

Recently, the heads of the Private Schools Action Committee (PSAC) said that education was not among the priorities of the government, adding that the school owners have decided to challenge the coronavirus ordinance and have already prepared school SOPs meaning they are going to reopen schools in Karachi.

Members of the Private Schools Action Committee at the Karachi Press Club said that the continuous closure of schools has led to starvation in the homes of our teachers and employees, even paying the electricity bill and school rent has become increasingly difficult.

Reopen marriage halls but Pakistanis are unlikely to follow SOPs

Dr. Ahmed Usman, an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Social and Cultural Studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore, believes that: “Pakistani society is generally considered as a traditional society whose fabric is woven with the threads of norms, values, and cultures that are mostly shaped up by the complex theological underpinnings. Societal norms encourage social gatherings and overwhelming ways to express care, grief, and sorrow. The patterns of greetings are further formed as per religious frameworks that yet again emphasizes on kindness, generosity, and warmth ensured through reducing the physical gap between people. Religious rituals including Ibadaat at Mosques and religious congregations are considered compulsory in Islam. With this kind of widespread belief system, people believe that while they are in a state of ablution, no disease can harm them.”

He also noted that “arguably, the belief system encourages them to violate the man-made rules of lockdown that they think are baseless and a conspiracy of enemies to weaken the connection between God and them.  As lockdown restricts people from going to mosques and attending congregational prayers, it is considered an enemy’s tool to disconnect true Muslims from thy Lord.”

Read More: Clerics announce to reopen madrassas from June 2 amid COVID-19 outbreak

It is to be seen if the government devices to reopen marriage halls, but experts in Pakistan have warned against the premature easing of lockdown restrictions, fearing an exponential rise in infections. One healthcare worker said: “Everyone’s scared and exhausted. But we are fighting, we are pushing the limits. All we ask is that the government and people understand that they can help us help them by staying at home and providing us quality protective gear.”