In a pattern similar to the previous year, it took several hours after the sunset for the Central Reut-e-Hilal Committee to announce that the crescent for Eid-ul Fitr had been sighted and that the biggest Muslim festival would be celebrated in Pakistan on Thursday i.e. today. The unusually delayed decision followed an announcement by Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai — who heads a private moon-sighting committee based at Peshawar’s historic Majid-e-Qasim — that on the basis of as many as 189 evidences of moon-sighting received from Mardan, Charsadda and Peshawar, Eid would be celebrated in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Thursday.
Just like his predecessor, the new head of the Central Reut-e-Hilal Committee, Mufti Abdul Khabeer Azad, appeared seized by what Mufti Popalzai of Peshawar’s Majid-e-Qasim would decide. Mufti Popalzai enjoys his writ, at least on moon sighting matters, in much of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. His decisions on Ramazan and Eid moon have seldom tallied with the moon-sighting committee that represents the state; and as a result the country has traditionally remained divided on starting the holy month of Ramazan and celebrating Eid.
The decision to celebrate Eid on Thursday also falsified the scientific calculations of Fawad Chaudhry, the former federal minister for science and technology who is currently heading the portfolio of the federal ministry of information and broadcasting. Days before, Fawad had predicted that there was no chance of the moon sighting anywhere in Pakistan on Wednesday and that Eid could, in no way, fall on Thursday. He thus reacted to the moon decision with disapproval, saying that the holy month of Ramazan was brought to end by stating lies.
Anyways, Pakistanis are celebrating Eid today — albeit amid the raging third wave of the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 17 thousand lives in the country, besides affecting more than 8 lakh and 67 thousand people. The country has been under a lockdown with festivities pretty low-key, mostly restricted to homes. Let’s hope and pray that we will soon be able to get back to normal businesses.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2021.