PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday directed Ruet-i-Hilal Committee chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman and federal government to formally respond to a petition seeking orders to disband the moon-sighting body and declare its chairman isn’t competent to regulate the Islamic lunar calendar.

A bench consisting of Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Abdul Shakoor fixed May 30 for the next hearing into freelance journalist Shahid Orakzai’s petition, which claimed that that Ruet-i-Hilal Committee chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman had caused a religious controversy by delaying the start of the fasting month of Ramazan for 24 hours.

The petitioner requested the court to stop the committee’s chairman from making any announcement regarding the sighting of the moon of Shawwal until the petition was decided.

However, the bench observed that it would be appropriate to seek replies from the respondents, including the committee chairman and the federal government through the religious affairs secretary, about the petition.

Mr Orakzai requested the court to declare that the Muslims of Pakistan, who followed the declaration about the Ramazan moon’s sighting, should compensate for that lapse in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Quran.

He said for all practical purposes, the unaccounted 24 hours should remain part of the month of Ramazan.

“Those hours cannot be washed away by any means or switched to another month,” he said.

The petitioner prayed the high court to ask the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee’s chairman if he would be willing to correct and re-adjust the Islamic lunar calendar on the basis of full moon to occur later that month.

He said by the ‘Quranic mathematics and estimation’, the duration of every lunar month was to be determined by the number of days counted between two full moons but the committee was unaware of that.

Mr Orakzai claimed that until the ‘lost’ 24 hours were adjusted in the month of Ramazan, the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee’s chairman was likely to spoil Eidul Fitr for the entire Pakistani nation.

He added that the lost 24 hours were bound to delay the sighting of Shawwal moon in Pakistan compared to other Muslim countries of Asia and Middle East.

The petitioner said he had moved the court primarily to prevent any wrong pronouncement by the Shawal moon and seek its declaration about the lapse regarding the Ramazan moon and obligatory recompense by Pakistani Muslims.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2019