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Govt asked to frame laws, rules for moon-sighting committee

Govt asked to frame laws, rules for moon-sighting committee

ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani has set Nov 15 as the deadline for the government to frame laws and rules to govern the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee, which has been functioning for almost four decades without having any legal or constitutional status.

In case the government failed to present the draft law by the deadline either in the Senate or the National Assembly, the issue would automatically be referred to the Senate committee on religious affairs, he ruled on Wednesday.

Mr Rabbani issued the ruling following an admission by the Minister of State for Religious Affairs, Pir Aminul Hasnat, that the body tasked with deciding sighting of moon or otherwise at the start of every Islamic month had been functioning without any rules and regulations.

The motion on the issue was moved by Senator Farhatullah Babar of the PPP. He wanted the house to discuss the criteria, qualification, tenure and procedure for appointment of the chairman and members of the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee.

Mr Babar expressed his surprise over the disclosure by the government during a recent session in response to a question that the committee had been constituted merely in the light of a resolution passed by the National Assembly in Jan 1974.

“It (the government’s reply) shattered all myths about the committee which has been imposing its decision on 20 million people,” he said, adding that resolutions passed by any legislature only had recommendatory status. In the light of such resolutions, he added, the government took decisions to carry out a constitutional amendment, do simple legislation or amend any rule of business for its implementation.

The PPP senator said the nation saw controversy every year at least on two or three occasions on the issue of sighting of moon and observing two or three Eids had become an annual feature.

He said Mufti Muneebur Rehman had been heading the committee for 14 years and receiving allowances, though meagre, and air tickets from the national exchequer.

“The body has penetrated the system without any legal cover or laws to regulate its functions and determine its jurisdiction and powers,” he regretted.

Mr Babar was of the opinion that it was because of controversial role of the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee that Masjid Qasim Khan in Peshawar had also institutionalised itself into a body to make decision on moon sighting. He accused the moon-sighting committee of creating “division” among people.

The PPP senator called for using modern technology to end the controversy on the issue of moon sighting, instead of relying on a body whose chairman did not want to travel even to Peshawar to vet the claims of witnesses regarding the sighting of moon.

Pir Aminul Hasnat admitted that there was a need to give legal cover to the functioning of the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee, but rejected the demand for its abolition. He said Mufti Muneeb had been heading the body for 14 years because of his good performance.

The state minister said the committee had united the nation as most people, except for a small segment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, followed its decisions.

Published in Dawn, October 8th , 2015

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