PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has directed the National Disaster Management Authority and Director General of the national command and operation centre to submit response to the petition of wedding halls association, challenging the government’s Covid-19 restrictions.

The owners asked the court to restrain KP government from closing wedding halls as a part of SOPs to contain the spread of the virus.

The wedding halls owners have filed a petition against the closure of halls under Coronavirus SOPs from November 20. A two-judge bench comprising Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Syed Atiq Shah heard the petition and issued notices to the NDMA and Director General of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) to submit a response to the petition till Friday.

“The federal government has decided to close the marriage halls from November 20 at the NCOC meeting,” lawyer for the Petitioner Babar Khan Yousafzai argued in the court. “The marriage halls have been closed for more than five months due to the coronavirus. They are no more in a position to afford another lockdown.”

Yousafzai went on to say that owners have suffered a lot in the past and now closing halls against would be tantamount to ending their business. He added that the owners of the halls have also help protests in Peshawar but still the authorities have closed indoor wedding ceremonies while a complete ban is expected on November 20. The bench of after hearing the initial arguments issued notices to the chairman NDMA and DG NCOC and adjourned the hearing till Friday, November 20.

The President of KP wedding Halls Association Khalid Ayub said that there are 700 weddings halls in the province and all of them are in loss due to lockdowns. Ayub said that after the lockdown, the halls started their routine operations, but now the government has once again cracked down on them and imposed a ban on indoor weddings ceremonies. “There is no enough open space available in the wedding halls to accommodate weddings ceremonies,” Ayub informed. “We have decided to boycott any future lockdown.”

Ayub said that before making any decision, all the stockholders should be taken into confidence. He accused the district administration of taking extortions from shopkeepers in the name of implementing Covid-19 lockdowns. 

Leader of Tajir Insaf Shahid Khan said that the wedding halls remained closed of a long time incurring huge loss to the owners but the government has not provided any compensation. He said they have directed the staff and traders in the markets to use sanitizers and masks to stop the spread of coronavirus. Khan asked the administration not to seal the entire market if a single shopkeeper violates the Covid-19 SOPs. He asked the government to provide financial assistance to small traders.  

President of Traders association, Mujibur Rehman said that closure of wedding halls would not stop the spread of coronavirus. He advised that the government authorities should sit with the traders and formulate a policy to cope with the situation instead of closing business centres. He said that the eyes of the traders are still on the government to provide compensation against the losses incurred due to the lockdown.

Rehman urged the government to stop the depriving shopkeepers from earning their living as the government has never extended any support despite the closure of their markets for several months. “The traders are no more ready to afford any lockdown and would protest if the markets and halls were closed,” Rehman said.

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