THE fasting month of Ramazan is a time for reflection and spiritual renewal. It is also a time when the faithful are expected to show extra kindness. However, some actions of the state seem to contradict the spirit of compassion. Take, for example, the Ehteram-i-Ramazan (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which was unanimously approved by the Senate some weeks ago. As reported, the law has increased fines and prison sentences for those establishments and individuals that violate the prohibition on smoking, eating and drinking in public during the month. Considering the prevailing hot weather, the state should take a lenient view in this regard. After all, fasting is a personal matter and the government should ideally not be in the business of telling people what they can or cannot do where religious injunctions are concerned. Additionally, the very old, the very young and the infirm who cannot fast must not be prevented from eating and drinking publicly during this period. When religious rulings themselves allow space for those not able to fast, the state should not be forcing people to abstain.
Where the state’s intervention is indeed needed during Ramazan is on the roads. Traffic in the country, especially in big cities like Karachi, can be horrendous. During Ramazan, in the rush to get home before iftar, people can be more reckless than usual on the roads. Traffic police along with wardens must be on their toes to ensure the smooth flow of vehicles. Moreover, price-control mechanisms must be effectively enforced to deter traders from fleecing the people during the fasting month in particular. This is also the time when many people choose to donate to charity. Over the past few years, many individuals and organisations have started distributing ration packs to the needy. While this is a welcome act, in a number of incidents due to mismanagement stampedes have occurred during distribution, which is why the state must ensure charity is distributed in a safe manner.
Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2017