ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel has questioned the legal status of the Ruet-e Hilal Committee in view of the controversies surrounding its working during the sighting of the moon.
“Millions of people look up to the committee, especially during Ramazan, but the committee, set up via a resolution of parliament, is without a legal and constitutional status," said Senator Hafiz Hamdullah, head of the Senate standing committee on religious affairs.
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The panel directed the religious affairs ministry to submit a detailed report about the committee’s functions and criteria for appointment of its head and its members.
Secretary for the Ministry of Religious Affairs Suhail Aamir informed the panel that the committee was constituted in 1974 through a resolution passed in the National Assembly. Since then, the committee has been carrying out its functions at the federal and district levels . No actual legislation or rules have been framed for it since it was established, explained the ministry’s official.
According to the ministry, 26 members of the committee are performing their duties under chairman Mufti Munibur Rehman, who has been performing his duties for the past 15 years. The chairman’s tenure is supposed to last three years only. Munibur Rehman refused to comment on the issue.
Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq, who is also a member of the upper house panel, noted that the country had been facing controversies almost every year on Eidul Fitr, giving rise to the phenomenon of two Eids. However, the Ruet-e-Hilal committee has no mechanism to declare Eid on the same day simultaneously across the country. Referring to Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, Haq said that these countries had a proper mechanism for moon-sighting and suggested the ministry formally request help from these countries in this regard.
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Senator Brig (retd) John Kenneth Williams noted that the committee was functioning on ad hoc basis because there were no set legal procedures. He called for formulating rules and procedures for the committee.
Mushtaq Ahmed, deputy secretary of the National Assembly, told The Express Tribune that a resolution of the assembly had its own value which, in fact, was a recommendation of the lawmakers. He said that the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee cannot be declared illegal or unconstitutional unless it was challenged in the courts.
The panel also directed the ministry to submit details of its expenditures over the past four years.
An official of the ministry informed the committee that Rs9.12 million had been spent on Tabligh and Zakat by the ministry during the current year and the total allocation in this regard was Rs15 million. The remainder will be spent before June 2016.
Similarly, the ministry spent Rs38.5 million on minority funds, while the total allocation in this regard stood at Rs80m. However, members of the panel urged the ministry to submit details at the next meeting detailing what it had achieved by spending such huge funds on Tabligh, Zakat and minority funds.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2016.
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