Fawad again locks horns with Ruet-i-Hilal Committee

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LAHORE: Federal Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry has reignited the moon sighting controversy by seeking apology from the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee for what he claims misleading the nation on the sighting of the moon for Safar, the second month of the Islamic calendar.

“[My ministry] has released pictures for the start of Safar as an evidence to prove that the month began on Sept 30, while the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee made a mistake by declaring that the moon was not sighted on Sept 30 therefore Safar would start on Oct 1. Now the committee should tender apology [to the nation] for the misstatement [on the moon sighting],” the minister said while talking to the media here on Sunday.

There had been difference of opinion between the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee and the one led by Mufti Popalzai of Peshawar on the sighting of moons for Ramazan and Eidul Fitr.

Minister seeks apology for Safar moon controversy

A controversy erupted when Mr Chaudhry’s ministry launched its website and an android application for sighting moon for Islamic months and he suggested disbanding the official committee to save the expenses incurred on its sittings.

Criticising the committee members, the minister said young people and not octogenarians, a reference to mostly elderly members of the body, must be engaged for moon sighting as people had been trapped in the rut since 1980s.

Referring to objection by some clerics who happen to be members of the committee that evidence of moon sighted with the aid of scientific devices is not acceptable from Shariah point of view, he said then the evidence of those who wore spectacles [an allusion to bespectacled committee chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman] could not also be accepted.

About the JUI-F planned long march on Islamabad, Mr Chaudhry alleged that party chief Maulan Fazlur Rehman wanted to misuse students of seminaries for his political motives. He also chided the religious party leader for demanding fresh elections in the country after ouster of the PTI government.

“The demand for fresh general election is illogical. What link Maulana Sahib has with the new polls while his party never contests on more than 60 seats,” he said.

The minister alleged that both the PPP and PML-N were using the JUI-F chief by provoking him to continue with his protest march. He claimed that both the major opposition parties had no concern with the problems of the masses and they were supporting the protest as a means to seek release of their respective leaders.

“The PPP and N League both desire to get their [respective] leadership released without striking a plea bargain [with NAB], whereas we’re still offering them to pay and get your fathers [released].”

Dispelling the impression that the PTI government was victimising the opposition through corruption cases, he said not a single case had been instituted by the government and the leaders of the two parties were behind the bars because of the cases registered by them against each other during their respective tenures.

Answering a query about the visit of Prince William and Princess Kate Middleton, the minister said the image of the country was improving through the international cricket matches and visit of the UK royal family members.

The ministry, he said, was planning to form a battery research group so that the country is able to manufacture batteries locally and that they were also developing south Asia’s biggest bio-technology park near Jhelum, his home district.

He said the ministry had also suggested generating gas for geysers from civic refuse, while development authorities of Lahore and Islamabad had also been offered re-charging of the subsoil water whose table is falling by three feet per year.

Mr Chaudhry said he had also approached the prime minister for lifting ban on drones as the technology could be used for spraying pesticides and other tasks in the agriculture sector.

Referring to the JKLF’s march on the Line of Control, he said the people should wait for the final call of Prime Minister Imran Khan otherwise it would damage Islamabad’s efforts for regional peace.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2019