The Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee late on Wednesday announced the sighting of moon for the month of Shawwal, saying Eidul Fitr will be celebrated across Pakistan tomorrow (Thursday).
The announcement was made after 11:30pm after the committee's meeting in Islamabad that lasted more than four hours. It was presided over by committee chairman Maulana Abdul Khabeer Azad, while representatives of the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Meteorological Department were also in attendance.
Separate meetings of zonal and district Ruet committees were held at their respective regional headquarters.
"[Moon-sighting] testimonies were received from across Pakistan," Maulana Azad told a highly anticipated press conference. He said although the visibility had been low in many areas, testimonies were received from Chaman, Qila Saifullah, Pasni, Peshawar, Mirpurkhas and other cities.
"Therefore, it has been decided with consensus that the first of Shawwal [...] will be on May 13, Thursday, and Eidul Fitr will be observed tomorrow," the Ruet committee chairman announced.
Referring to the entire country celebrating Eid on the same day, just as Ramazan was started across Pakistan on the same day, he said: "Allah has united the nation once again and I think we will try to move forward together in the future as well."
He urged the public to follow the coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs) during Eid prayers, especially wearing face masks and avoiding physical contact.
Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) leader and Senator Sarfraz Bugti earlier tweeted that the moon had been sighted in Sui area of Balochistan's Dera Bugti district by Bugti notable Haji Islam Bakhlani. He also shared his mobile number.
However, before the national body made its announcement, Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai, who heads the local unofficial moon-sighting committee at Peshawar's historic Qasim Ali Khan Mosque, declared Eid tomorrow.
"More than 175 moon-sighting testimonies were received from different areas of the province; we checked and confirmed the testimonials," Popalzai told media, adding that the testimonies had been forwarded to the central Ruet committee as well.
In Quetta, zonal Ruet committee member Qari Abdul Hafeez said the body had not received any authentic moon-sighting testimonies from the Balochistan capital.
Addressing a press conference after the committee's meeting, he said only unverified reports were being received from Chaman, Zhob, Pasni and other areas of the province. He requested the central Ruet committee to review the testimonies received from Balochistan and take a decision.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Interfaith Harmony and Middle East Affairs Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi called upon the public to wait for the Ruet committee's announcement, saying the body will make a decision according to Sharia.
Meanwhile, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry, who previously served as the science and technology minister, said the age of the new moon was only 13 hours and 42 minutes in Pakistan due to which it was "impossible" to sight the crescent today.
"The people who want to celebrate Eid with Saudi Arabia, it is their option but what logic would it be to conclude the holy month with a lie?" he tweeted, adding that the people supporting this view "should say plainly 'we want to celebrate Eid with Afghanistan or Saudia.'"
Efforts for same-day Eid
Earlier, in an attempt to ensure that Eidul Fitr is celebrated the same day across the country this year, Ruet-i-Hilal Committee members had approached and tried to persuade the clerics who have publicly opposed the announcement related to Shawwal moon-sighting by the national body in the past.
“We are engaged with clerics of all schools of thought and various groups, involving them in the process,” Maulana Azad had told Dawn, recalling that the management of Peshawar's Qasim Ali Khan mosque, where Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai heads the local unofficial moon-sighting committee, had also observed Ramazan with the rest of the nation.
“I am sure they will respect the decision of the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee over Shawwal moon too,” he added.
However, some committee members had expressed concerns over what they called the premature statements by Information Minister Chaudhry regarding the expected date of Eid.
In a tweet on Sunday, Chaudhry had said: "Although the final Eid announcement will be made by the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee, according to the calendar and Ruet App developed by the [science ministry] the moon will be able to be sighted on May 13 and Eid will be on May 14 (Friday)."
Several committee members had registered concerns to the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee chairman that such statements by the minister would only encourage clerics such as Mufti Popalzai of Peshawar to continue to undermine the authority of the committee this year too.
Eid under Covid's shadow
This year's Eid comes as Pakistan struggles to contain a third wave of coronavirus infections, with more than 850,000 cases and 19,000 deaths declared and only a fraction of the population having been vaccinated.
The country is currently under a partial lockdown after the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) last month announced a 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' strategy from May 8 to May 16 aimed at controlling the movement of people during the Eidul Fitr holidays.
Under the guidelines, all markets, businesses and shops will remain closed, except essential services such as grocery stores, medical stores, hospitals, vaccination centres, vegetable, fruit and meat shops, bakeries, petrol pumps, food takeaways and media houses.
There will be a ban on Chand Raat bazaars, including mehndi, jewellery/ornaments and clothing stalls. There will be a complete ban on tourism for both locals and outsiders. All tourist resorts, formal and informal picnic spots, public parks, shopping malls, hotels and restaurants at picnic places will remain closed during Eid holidays.
Interprovincial, intercity and intra-city public transport will also remain suspended, while private vehicles, taxies/cabs and rickshaws will operate at 50 per cent occupancy.
The electronic media has been advised to run movies, dramas and shows to keep people entertained at home. Moreover, uninterrupted supply of electricity will be ensured during the Eid holidays.
With additional reporting by Ghalib Nihad in Quetta.