Wednesday July 24, 2024

NA approves bill penalising unofficial moonsighting

All other unofficial bodies are barred from indulging in moon sightings

By Web Desk
June 01, 2023
Ramadan moon-sighting committee offers Magrib prayer in Karachi on April 23, 2020. — AFP
Ramadan moon-sighting committee offers Magrib prayer in Karachi on April 23, 2020. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: To bring "harmony" amongst followers of various schools of thought of Islam, National Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill to regulate the mechanism of moon-sighting for determining the commencement of Islamic months and said that unofficial bodies would be liable for penal action.

In the absence of the religious affairs minister, the Pakistan Ruet-e-Hilal Bill, 2022 was presented to the House by State Minister for Law and Justice Shahadat Awan.

The law will come into effect once Senate ratifies it and the president gives his assent.

A copy of the bill, which is available on the NA website, read: “In order to regulate the system of moon-sighting for the purpose of commencement of Islamic Hijri calendar months and consequently to bring harmony amongst followers of various schools of thought of Islam to perform their religious obligations with unanimity throughout the country.”

Moreover, the bill barred all unofficial bodies and individuals from indulging in this activity.

“No committee, entity or organisation by whatever name called, other than the federal, provincial and district committees for sighting the moon shall operate in all over Pakistan or any part thereof,” the bill stated, adding the term of Ruet-e-Hilal committees shall be three years.

The meeting of the Central Ruete-Hilal committee shall be convened by its chairperson on the 29th day of each month or at any time on his own or as directed by the division concerned.

The committee may co-opt any person or invite any expert to attend its meetings or deliberations, to advise it on any matter under discussion, however, such co-opted or invited member shall have no right to vote.

The new composition

The chairperson of the central moon-sighting committee shall be appointed on a rotation basis from the provinces and the federal capital. The body will comprise the chairperson, two clerics from each province and one each from Islamabad, GB and AJK, while technical members in the committee will be one officer each from the Met Office, Suparco and the religious affairs ministry.

Under the new law, the ruet committees shall accept evidence regarding moon sighting only in accordance with Shariah, provided that the evidence of moon sightings is sent to the central committee through the provincial committees.

What are the punishments?

The violators will be punished with a fine up to 500,000 while electronic media that broadcast the news of the moon-sighting before the official announcement of moon-sighting under section 15 shall be liable to punishment of a fine up to Rs1 million or suspension of their licences by the PEMRA or with both.

“Any person or persons who give false evidence regarding moon sighting shall be liable to the punishment of imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years or with fine upto Rs50,000 or with both.”