Imran Khan’s government has drawn the ire of conservative clerics with calls for a science-based lunar calendar to calculate the start of the holy fasting month of Ramzan in Pakistan, which faces an annual controversy over the date.
A cleric-led “moonsighting committee” announces when the fasting should begin, but for decades it has faced disputes over the accuracy of its decision.
“Every year on the occasion of Ramzan, Id and Muharram a controversy starts regarding moonsighting,” Pakistan’s Science and Technology Minister, Fawad Chaudhry, explained in a video he tweeted on May 5 in which he recounted watching the committee use “old technology” — telescopes — to make their calculations.
“When modern means are available..., the question is why we should not use this latest technology?” he argued.
His Ministry will form a new committee of scientists, meteorologists and Pakistan’s space agency to calculate the correct dates for the next five years with “100 percent accuracy”. However the Prime Minister’s Cabinet can reject the calendar. In another tweet he warned decisions on how the country should be run “cannot be left to the maulana (clerics)”.
Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, head of the moonsighting committee, warned that Mr. Chaudhry should stay in his lane. “I have appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan that only the concerned Minister should talk about religious matters,” he said in a press conference in Karachi. “Every Minister who does not know the sensitivity of the religion, does not understand it, they should not get the free licence to comment on religious matters.”
He pointed out that the committee already has members from the space agency, and also works with the meteorological department.