ISLAMABAD: The government had forcibly sent Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai of Peshawar-based Masjid Qasim abroad just ahead of the Eidul Fitr in a bid to end the moon-sighting controversy, his colleague has alleged.
Mulana Khairul Bashar, a senior member of Masjid Qasim Ali Khan’s moon-sighting committee, in a video clip shared on social media, claimed on Wednesday that Popalzai was sent to Dubai so that Eid is celebrated across the country the same day.
The video stirred a new controversy over the Peshawar-based cleric’s visit abroad.
“Although he (Mufti Popalzai) was asked not to return before August 2, he will try to come back as soon as possible. We condemn this act of the government. We will also file a complaint in this regard,” the video quoted him as saying.
In the 10-minute video he also claimed that the government had also tried to impede his (Mufti Popalzai’s) attempts to announce Eid on the eve of June 24.
“I was barred from participating in the June 24 meeting of the moon-sighting committee at Masjid Qasim Ali Khan, Peshawar. But these government efforts were wasted when another member of the committee announced that Eid will fall on June 25,” he said.
He said that the government’s intentions became clear after it changed the venue for holding the meeting of the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee from Peshawar to Islamabad.
According to him, the central body had no legal status and it was unconstitutional.
“How can a committee, which is controversial and without any legal status, authentically announce the sighting of the moon,” he said.
Bashar said that Masjid Qasim Ali Khan’s committee always announced moon sightings based on solid evidence and verifiable testimonies and in consultation with veteran religious scholars.
“It is an honour for us that people and religious scholars trust us … This is enough to verify our authenticity and legitimacy,” he said.
He also said that such acts of the government would not let their moral down and the committee of Masjid Qasim Khan will continue to function in the same manner and would not follow the illegal so-called central Ruet-e-Hial Committee.
When Minister of State for Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony Pir Muhammad Aminul Hasnat Shah was asked about the veracity of this allegation, he said: “These allegations are not authentic. People are just trying to defame the government and the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee. I do not know what is prompting them to spread such rumours.”
He said: “It is impossible to (forcibly) send such a renowned religious scholar abroad … Why would the government do such a thing? It is impossible to do anything covertly these days.”