KARACHI: The month of Ramazan will commence Friday, said central Ruet-i-Hilal Chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman in a press conference on Wednesday night, adding that no moon sightings had been reported across the country.

"After careful consideration, and consuming appropriate time, the committee has decided that the holy month of Ramazan will be observed from Friday, June 19, after the crescent was not sighted across the country" said the Mufti.

However, an unofficial Ruet body based in Peshawar's Qasim Khan mosque, which is headed by Mufti Shahabuddin Populzai, announced Ramazan will begin tomorrow (Thursday) based on ten witnesses who said they had seen the crescent. As a result, residents of several areas in the country's north-west province are expected to observe Ramazan and Eid a day before the rest of the country.

It is pertinent to mention here that KP's official zonal moon-sighting committee had earlier announced no moon sightings in the province.

Earlier today, the central moon-sighting committee— Ruet-i-Hilal— headed by Mufti Muneebur Rehman held a session in Karachi to determine the beginning of Ramazan.

Several zonal committees were also in session in various parts of the country including Lahore, Quetta and Peshawar.

But experts had already opined that a sighting was highly unlikely tonight, with the commencement of Ramazan probable on Friday.

Lunar sighting has been a problematic area in Pakistan for years now, with several unofficial committees functioning in various parts of the country.

The conflict over the onset of Ramazan and Eid celebration usually begins in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), where evidence of the Shawal moon sighting of local Ulema (clerics) often contradicts the findings of the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee under Mufti Muneebur Rehman.

Last year, the Central Ruet-i-Hilal committee announced that Ramazan would begin in the country on June 30 after it claimed the moon was not sighted anywhere in the country on June 28.

But in what has now become almost an unavoidable ritual in the build-up to Ramazan as well as Eidul Fitr, Mufti Shahabuddin Populzai, the self-styled chairman of an unofficial Ruet body, came up with a claim close to midnight of June 28, that he had received “enough eyewitness accounts” to establish the sighting of the crescent. “The first day of Ramazan will, therefore, fall on Sunday (June 29)," he said at the time.

This year, to prevent disunity from marring the religious occasion, the government is striving to bring religious clerics across all provinces on the same page.

In this regard, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Mohammad Yousaf contacted the KP Provincial Minister for Zakat, Auqaf and Religious Affairs Haji Habibur Rahman and other local scholars and requested their "cooperation in the commencement of Ramazan across the country on the same date".

Take a look: Perennial problem: Will Pakistan witness a unanimous start to Ramazan this year?

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