‘Inseparable twins’ continuously fighting as PM remains silent spectator
Fawad Chaudhry, minister for science and technology, announced at about midday (Saturday) that Eidul Fitr will be celebrated on Sunday.
He was scheduled to speak about the prospects of moot sighting a day before, but had to cancel his presser because of the tragic PIA plane crash in Karachi that took some 100 lives.
The Ruet-i-Hilal Committee was due to meet at Karachi on Saturday evening to take a final decision on Eid in the light of evidence received from all nooks and corners of the country and the relevant government institutions.
The committee announced at about 10pm that Eid would be celebrated on Sunday (May 24).
In other words, it made the same announcement which the science minister had made about 10 hours before.
The Committee chairman – Mufti Muneebur Rehman - at his news conference was critical of the science minister’s role, and called it interference in religious affairs. Seeking an end to this unenviable practice, he also urged the prime minister to ‘rein in’ the budding leader from Jhelum.
It may be just a coincidence that the science minister and the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee are daggers drawn since the day Fawad Chaudhry wore the mantle of minister for science. A lawyer by profession, Fawad has consistently been undermining the committee headed by Mufti Muneeb and trying to establish that in the presence of his ministry there was no need for a body at all to make an announcement for moon sighting or keep people guessing about the day of celebrations.
On the other hand, Mufti Muneeb has his own argument to resist the minister’s ‘interference’.
There is no denying the fact that the science ministry is very important and its subordinate organization SUPARCO and the Met Office provide the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee scientific evidence about the sighting of the moon. Without input from these organizations the committee cannot come up with a conclusive decision about moon sighting, especially when the weather throughout the country is cloudy.
It is the instruments available with the SUPARCO and the Met Office that come to help the Ruet committee.
But as a matter of principle, the science ministry cannot make any announcement on its own. It is the Ruet committee which is competent to make an announcement about moon sighting keeping in sight the scientific evidence and Shariah laws.
It would not be wrong to liken the science ministry and the Ruet committee to ‘inseparable twins’, whose role is supportive for each other. They are interdependent, not rivals.
But, unluckily, these ‘twins’ have been fighting with each other for long and Prime Minister Imran Khan is playing the role of a silent spectator. He has made no attempt to disengage them or persuade them to work in coordination with each other. The situation is bringing a bad name to the country and a feeling is growing among the people that the prime minister has no control over the state machinery.
With the advancement of science, it is now possible to foretell when Eidul Fitr will be celebrated 100 years or 300 years from now.
But this doesn’t mean the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee has become irrelevant or redundant. The power to make the moon sighting announcement still rests with this committee. The science ministry cannot make any announcement nor will such an announcement carry any value.
A number of Muslims countries – like Saudi Arabia and Egypt – are also in a position to know on what date of the Christian calendar will fall Eidul Fitr or Eidul Azha in a particular year. Still, they have arrangements in place to see the crescent with naked eye, which is a pre-requisite.
The situation demands that the prime minister must intervene and keep the institutions within their limits.
Just imagine for a while the situation in the country if the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee had made some announcement last night which was in conflict with the statement of the science minister. Thank God that an embarrassment has been averted. Otherwise, some people would have been celebrating Eid on Sunday while others would have been fasting.
The country faces countless other problems. Prudence demands that time and energies should not be wasted on non-issues.