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Why Is Pakistan Not Shutting Down Its Mosques Amid Coronavirus Pandemic?

PAKISTAN -- People attend evening prayers while maintaining a level of social distancing to help avoid the spread of the coronavirus, at a mosque in Karachi, April 22, 2020

On April 18, the Pakistani government signed an agreement with religious leaders that permits mosques to remain open over Ramadan, which in Pakistan begins on April 24.

This stands in contrast to most other Muslim-majority countries, where governments have ordered mosques to close down in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

While the agreement features a list of 20 rules-including the need for worshipers to stand six feet apart-critics believe such measures will be difficult to enforce.

With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rising exponentially in Pakistan, there is concern that open mosques could have grave public health consequences.

Why have clerics in Pakistan refused to close mosques, and why has the government not taken a stronger position?

The latest episode of The AfPak File addresses these questions and more. The discussion features Asad Hashim, Islamabad-based online correspondent for Al Jazeera English; Dr. Madiha Afzal, David M. Rubenstein fellow at the Brookings Institution; and Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia and Asia Program deputy director at the Wilson Center.

The discussion is moderated by Muhammad Tahir, media relations manager for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Washington DC.

AfPak File: Why Is Pakistan Not Shutting Its Mosques?
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