Press Trust of india

Coronavirus: Pakistani cleric booked again for defying ban on Friday congregations

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Islamabad:  A prominent cleric in Pakistan has been booked for a third time for defying the government ban on Friday congregations imposed as a part of measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, according to a media report.

Islamabad police registered a case against cleric of Lal Masjid, Maulana Abdul Aziz, on Saturday for gathering several people for Friday prayers at the mosque.

A police officer told Dawn newspaper that the new case was registered under section 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the PPC along with the arm ordinance.

The Islamabad administration is facing a direct challenge from Aziz who not only held large congregations at almost every prayer but also claimed in online posts that he would continue to lead the collective prayers.

This is the third time the firebrand cleric has been booked for the same offence, but he is yet to be arrested.

Two more cases were registered against him during the last three weeks, Dawn newspaper said quoting the police as saying.

One of his companions was also booked for displaying arms which is also banned in the capital.

Pakistan has imposed a ban on congregation in mosques.

The maulana and his companions were asked to stop people from violating the restriction but they ignored, the officer said, adding about 200 to 300 people gathered in the mosque.

In reply to a question, the officer said any move to arrest Maulana Aziz or his companions would lead to a law and order situation.

An officer of the Islamabad administration added that a few ulema were approached to negotiate with the Lal Masjid cleric and convince him to follow the government order.

Succumbing to pressure from the hardline clerics, the Pakistan government on Saturday allowed congregational prayers in mosques during the month of Ramazan, endangering the drive to curb the spread of coronavirus that has killed more than 154,000 people worldwide.

The number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan Sunday rose to 7,993 with 514 more patient identified during the last 24 hours.

The Ministry of National Health Services reported on its website that 16 more people died during this period, taking the death toll to 159.

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