Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Minister for Religious Affairs, Zakat and Ushr Habibur Rahman rejected the claims of the committee head at Masjid Qasim Ali Khan, saying the central Ruet-e-Hilal committee does not accept their moon sighting.
“The K-P government is with the central Ruet-e-Hilal committee and does not recognise any private committee, including the one set up at Masjid Qasim Ali Khan,” said Rahman while speaking to The Express Tribune. “We do not have proper laws to take action against any person or committee who claims to have witnessed the moon and announces Ramazan or Eid,” said the minister, asking the federal government to form a law for the purpose.
He claimed the committee at Masjid Qasim Ali Khan, under the supervision of Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai, is disuniting the country and causing anarchy. Rahman criticised the midnight announcement of the committee where they have claimed Eidul Fitr to be on Monday, saying they had no cause to do so when everyone in the country had agreed that there had been no moon sighting. The religious minister called on the central committee to take steps to maintain unity throughout the country.
The Ruet-e-Hilal committee was formed by the federal government in 1968 when there were riots over the moon sighting in Karachi in which some eight people died. “That is the situation that we do not want to create again,” said the minister.
Despite Rahman rejecting the decisions of private committees altogether, the Bannu district administration has allowed a private committee to sit at the municipal hall to observe the moon and call for Eidul Fitr on Monday if there is a sighting.
K-P Minister for Information Mushtaq Ghani said the province will celebrate Eidul Fitr alongside the federal government and rejected any status of private committees. Speaking of letting the municipal hall in Bannu, the minister claimed that he is unaware of the incident and that the administration will investigate the issue.
Meanwhile, the committee head at Masjid Qasim Ali Khan, Shahabuddin Popalzai, said the issue cannot be solved by the provincial government and the federal government has to create appropriate laws.
“We have regional committees throughout K-P,” said Popalzai. “There are more than 100 ulemas working with our committee for the moon sighting in Peshawar alone.”
“It is the right of witnesses to come to us and give testimony of the moon sighting. The ulemas are responsible for a thorough check of the witness and if they accept the decision, then so do we,” said the Masjid Qasim Ali Khan committee head.
Last year, the K-P government had arrested people who announced Eidul Fitr early in Charsadda. Some Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MPAs in Peshawar, however, had decided to celebrate Eid with the regional committee led by Popalzai.
On condition of anonymity, one of the MPAs told The Express Tribune that they have been celebrating Eid on Masjid Qasim Ali Khan’s announcement for long.
“Popalzai is a much respected figure in the city,” said the MPA. “We began fasting on his announcement and we will definitely celebrate Eid on his announcement as well.”
On the other hand Jamaat-e-Islami’s Peshawar district leadership said they would celebrate Eid with the federal government, arguing that the central committee is equipped with sophisticated technology and if they cannot spot the moon, neither can the ulemas at Masjid Qasim Ali Khan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2014.