IT is really a task cut out for the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Taking a decision on which food is forbidden and which is halal should not be the responsibility of the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Yet, the latter ministry is now seeking the creation of a ‘halal food authority’ that would be empowered to ban the import and sale of foods it believes may contain ingredients prohibited by religion.
The fact that the ministry took the matter before a National Assembly standing committee is evidence that the officers running its affairs are completely out of ideas when it comes to the promotion of science and technology in the country.
Surely, it would have made far more sense for them to have pointed out the deficiencies in science education in Pakistan, or to have discussed the absence of research.
Even if the ministry preferred to focus on food quality, there are areas where its input would have been appreciated. For example, it could have concerned itself with food safety.
The country’s waterways are heavily contaminated with pollutants of various kinds. Industrial effluent and raw sewage are used for irrigation purposes in many parts of the country, and negatively affect agricultural produce.
Then, there are entire districts that have a high incidence of hepatitis from contaminated water. Any government would be alarmed at the potential health risk to its citizens.
Not so the officers of the science and technology ministry; along with some parliamentarians, they have chosen not to dwell on such unpalatable truths.
Once again, the question of halal food should be left to the religious affairs ministry, with their peers in commerce being empowered to take action. It is strange that the matter was referred by the National Assembly speaker to the Standing Committee on Science and Technology.
The ministry concerned would be doing everyone a favour by focusing on its mandate to promote research and technology in the country, instead of delving into faith-based issues.
Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2015