Karachi: After a long hiatus, the Sindh province has witnessed the first Urs celebrations of the year as shrines across the province have reopened after a gap of five months with most of the anti-coronavirus lockdown measures lifted by the government.
The Sindh government on 14th March this year ordered the closure of shrines along with marriage halls and cinemas across the province as part of its preventive strategy to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. The Sindh Government’s Home Department on Monday ordered reopening of the shrines as most of the lockdown restrictions were removed under a countrywide policy. Educational institutions, marriage halls, conference, convention, and expo centres are still closed in the province and will be reopened on September 15th, 2020, provided that the situation of the pandemic remains under full control.
The three-day Annual Urs of famous Sufi Saint of Sindh, Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi, got under way at his shrine at the posh Clifton neighbourhood of Karachi. This is his 1290th annual Urs. The Urs under the patronage of the provincial government draws large crowds every year. This year, however, the number of shrine visitors will be restricted in view of the precautionary measures in place by the government against the spread of the COVID-19.
Sindh Auqaf Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal along with provincial Auqaf Secretary Haroon Ahmed Khan formally inaugurated the Urs celebration on Monday night. A set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have been notified by the provincial government for the shrines. Speaking on the occasion, Sindh Auqaf minister said that the prospective pilgrims were allowed to visit shrines across the province after due observance of the SOPs to keep them safe from the viral disease. A local holiday is observed every year by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation on the occasion of Urs.
Sindh Information and Religious Affairs Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah who also visited the shrine as part of the Urs celebrations, appreciated that the shrine visitors were following proper SOPs.
He said that elaborate security arrangements were in place for safety of the shrine visitors. The shrine witnessed a major terrorist activity in 2010.
Under the SOPs notified by the Sindh government, the shrine visitors are required to wear facial masks while their temperature will also be checked before entry. Social distancing is must inside the shrines. The custodian of the shrine is responsible for ensuring observance of all the SOPs. The government could close the shrine if the SOPs are not properly followed. Large congregations like that for Qawwali will not be allowed inside the shrines.