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Coronavirus, Tablighi Jamaat and migrant workers related stories and subsequent editorials once again dominated their space in Urdu dailies for the fourth consecutive week in a row. Several other newspapers in Pakistan and Malaysia also gave prominence to these stories

-Shri Ram Shaw


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So, Islamic missionaries of Tablighi Jamaat may be the biggest carrier of COVID-19 in South Asia!? In a strange pattern, members of Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic proselytising group, have been found unrestrainedly preaching in large religious gatherings amid the coronavirus restrictions in several countries in Asia, leading to thousands of infections.
Pakistani media said, after the outbreak of coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, many countries imposed travel restrictions. However, Tablighi Jamaat went ahead with its pre-planned celebrations.
Dawn said in its editorial, ‘‘At a time when social distancing and lockdowns are buzzwords in the effort to stop the spread of the contagion, the congregation was a recipe for disaster. Major administrative lapse has affected the battle against COVID-19. Things were further complicated when Tablighi preachers were allowed to spread throughout the country.’’
It further said, ‘‘There are lessons that can be learnt from this fiasco, the state must be gentle but firm. The COVID-19 crisis should be prevented from snowballing further. The ban on congregational prayers must be enforced as long as the crisis lasts.’’
Malaysian media reported that more than half of the country’s known cases were traced to a Tablighi Jamaat gathering outside Kuala Lumpur, in late February and early March. The New York Times reported that the Islamic missionaries who participated in the congregation in Malaysia spread the virus to Brunei and Thailand as well.
In India, in the first week of March, about 250 foreign nationals arrived in Nizamuddin West locality of New Delhi to attend a religious congregation organised by Tablighi Jamaat. The gathering was attended by over 1,700 to 1,800 people from both India and abroad. Many foreign members, travelled to various states for preaching Islam, even as they were on tourist visas. Akhbar-E-Mashriq wrote in its editorial with a headline – ‘‘Tablighi Jamaat ko badnaam karne ki koshish’’ (An attempt to defame Tablighi Jamaat). Terming the entire episode as ‘‘a major administrative lapse’’, the paper said that ‘‘it’s a matter of great concern that even media in the country is conspiring to mislead people by presenting only one aspect of the picture in this critical situation. The administration did not coordinate with Markaz.’’


Akhbar-e-Mashriq, Hamara Samaj, Inquilab, Urdu Times, Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, Munsif, Etemad, Kashmir Times – all have said that the Centre and state governments must step up coordination and reach out to migrant workers for providing relief. PM Modi’s announcement to declare 21-day lockdown across the country with no income and cash in hand, these workers are now dependent on NGOs and self-help groups for food. The closure of all but essential services as a result of the lockdown, has dried up sources of livelihood of workers in the informal sector. Siasat, said in its editorial, ‘Shayad phir is qadar bhi taalluq nahi rahe/ Kuch log dhoondhte hain tera sang-e-dar abhi’’. Centre has to step up its efforts to help the poor and marginalised sections.


Pakistani media has called out their PM—Imran Khan—for saying PM Modi apologised to the people of India for imposing a nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19. Pakistan Geo News called out Imran Khan’s false claim about Modi’s apology. In a show they aired, Geo News fact-checked PM Khan’s false claim and said that Modi apologised for the inconvenience and hardship caused due to the lockdown, and not for the lockdown itself, and that Modi never said the lockdown imposition was not a thoughtful decision.