CONTROVERSY over the Shawwal moon took a bizarre turn on Saturday night when the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa endorsed the zonal Ruet committee’s decision to reject an announcement made in Karachi by the central body and declared that Eidul Fitr would be celebrated in the province on Sunday.
The move meant that Eid would be celebrated on three days in different parts of the country this year. The North Waziristan and Bajaur agencies marked the occasion on Saturday, KP would do so on Sunday while the three other provinces would celebrate Eid on Monday.
Mufti Muneebur Rehman, head of the central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee, had announced in Karachi at 8.30pm that moon had not been sighted anywhere in the country and hence the first of Shawwal would be on Monday. Even the Met Office lent weight to the announcement, saying weather conditions had ruled out the sighting of moon.
“The meetings of our zonal committees were also held simultaneously at their respective headquarters in different cities. We also had assistance of experts from the metrological department and after meeting all formalities we have reached the conclusion with consensus that the Shawwal moon was not sighted in any part of the country.”
Mufti Muneeb was not available for comment about the decision of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to celebrate Eid on Sunday, but in a brief interaction with TV channels he avoided commenting on the controversy.
“They should better explain their position,” he said. “I don’t want to be a part of any controversy. The Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee made the announcement after coordination with all zonal committees and there is no reason to defy its decision.”
But Abdul Ghafoor, head of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ruet Committee and professor of theology at Peshawar University, announced that he had received “20 evidence and accepted the testimony after scrutiny”.
“Unfortunately, the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee has made an announcement about Shawwal moon without consulting the zonal committee,” he said.
Professor Ghafoor said the zonal committee tried to contact the central body in order to persuade it to accept evidence from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but it had already concluded its meeting. “The central body did not listen to us,” he lamented.
MINISTER BACKS KP BODY: Senior KP Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour said the provincial government would abide by the decision of the zonal committee and celebrate Eid on Sunday.
“I announce on behalf of the provincial government that Eid prayers will be offered on Sunday,” he said. The provincial government will follow the verdict of local Ulema, he added.
The minister criticised the central body for ignoring the decision of the zonal committee. Like in the past, he said, the central committee rejected evidence from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Khateeb Mufti Abdul Ghani, head of the District Ruet-i-Hilal Committee of Bannu, said 20 evidence had been received from different parts of the district and local Ulema had accepted them.
Announcements were also made in Mardan, Charsadda, Swabi, Karak, Malakand and parts of Fata that moon had been sighted.
Mufti Shahabuddin Populzai, Khateeb at Qasim Ali Khan Mosque in Peshawar, also said the Ulema had accepted testimony by 16 witnesses.
Usually no importance is attached to a decision by the unofficial committee at Qasim Ali Khan Mosque, but this year the controversy over moon sighting further aggravated after the zonal committee came out against the central committee.