PESHAWAR: The central Ruet-i-Hilal committee disregarding the screening of moon-sighting testimonies from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa triggered split in the country over observance of Eidul Fitr, according to senior members of the zonal Ruet committee.

They said that moon-sighting controversy surfaced every year at the start and culmination of the holy month of Ramazan since decades due to central Ruet-e-Hilal committee.

Take a look: 190 years of controversy: The Qasim Ali mosque and moon sighting elitism

The controversy splits Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas from rest of the country every year on the sighting of Eid moon and start of Ramazan.

Members of zonal committee say claim of witnesses from KP is never considered

Members of the official zonal Ruet-i-Hilal committee (moon-sighting panel) based in Peshawar and unofficial local committee held the central Ruet-i-Hilal committee responsible for the division.

They said that chairman of the central moon-sighting committee, Mufti Muneebur Rehman, had never considered the opinion of the people from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata while claiming to have sighted the crescent.

“I don’t know why Mufti Muneeb doesn’t accept their testimony,” said Prof Hafiz Abdul Ghafoor, a member of the official zonal Ruet-i-Hilal committee since 1995.

He said that since the central committee did not pay heed to their testimony, people had stopped coming to the zonal committee with claims of having sighted the moon.

“In the previous many years, there have been several instances of Mufti Muneeb discounting testimonies of the zonal committee established on the basis of local people, who witnessed the moon,” he said.

Prof Ghafoor said that Mufi Muneeb didn’t even wait for local witnesses and went ahead, announcing the decision that moon had not been sighted. “When we receive information of local witnesses with local moon sighting committee, we send our staff to ascertain the claims but the central committee doesn’t wait to hear from us on this,” he said.

Regarding solution to this controversy, he said that central moon-sighting committee should not wind up its meeting so early rather the meeting should be continued till late night.

Prof Ghafoor said that the people, who claimed to have sighted the moon in far off areas, took time to reach Peshawar city for presenting before the committee.

This year, the official zonal committee sent its two members to the historic Masjid Qasim Ali Khan, where the local moon-sighting committee was sitting, to observe the testimonies there.

“We were asked to inform the official central moon-sighting committee about the sighting of the moon if it received people having sighted the crescent,” one of the two members told Dawn.

He said that the local committee was busy in testimonies when Mufti Muneeb made announcement on television of not sighting the moon. The announcement surprised everyone present on the occasion, he said, adding later on the local committee announced the moon sighting that led to celebration of Eid in KP and Fata.

The chairman of the unofficial local moon-sighting committee, Mufti Shahabuddin Pupalzai, told Dawn that he and other religious scholars made all efforts to end the controversy forever but in vain.

He said that in past, the dialogue on the issue had taken place at different forums including district level, National Assembly and Senate but the central Ruet-i-Hilal committee was not cooperating.

“The central moon sighting committee has no Sharai and legal justification to have differences with us on this issue,” he said.

The chairman of central Ruet-i-Hilal committee, Mufti Muneebur Rehman was not available for comments.

The moon-sighting controversy was witnessed this year when Eid was celebrated in most parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata a day ahead of the rest of the country.

The celebration of two Eids in Pakistan leads to an eruption of social media opinion, with everyone pitching his or her ideas, further dividing the nation on the subject.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2018

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