Pakistan mulls jail term, fine for unauthorized, false moon sighting announcements

Pakistan mulls jail term, fine for unauthorized, false moon sighting announcements

In a bid to put an end to the moon sighting controversies around key festivals like Eid, the Pakistan government is mulling one-year imprisonment, a Rs 200,000 fine, or both, for anyone who announces the sighting of the new moon before the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee.

The government on Tuesday forwarded the draft of Ruet-e-Hilal Bill 2017 which seeks the reconstitution of the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee and suggests imprisonment and fines for unauthorized announcement of moon sighting marking the start of a new month in the lunar Hijri calendar, Pakistani media reported.

Moon sighting in Pakistan becomes a cause of controversy each year around key festivals, especially the two Eids, as independent clerics, most notably Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai of Peshawar’s Masjid Qasim Ali Khan, often digress from the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee’s decisions, leading to key events being celebrated at different times in the country.

“The bill, sent to the cabinet by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, proposes that two members of each province and one each from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Islamabad will be a part of the new committee,” Dawn daily reported.

One representative each from the meteorological department, the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) and the Ministry of Religious Affairs will also be a part of the committee.

Television channels which announce the sighting of the moon before a formal announcement by the committee will be fined up to Rs1 million and could also face suspension under the proposed bill. The bill also suggests a six-month imprisonment or a Rs 50,000 fine or both for those providing false evidence of moon-sighting.

It also seeks to limit the tenure of the committee’s chairman to three years and appointments for the post to be rotated between all four provinces.

The bill will be presented to the cabinet for approval following which it will be presented to parliament.

(Featured image: Members of the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee sighting the moon)




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