LAHORE - Pakistan is celebrating Eidul Fitr today, though parts of north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province celebrated the religious event on Tuesday, continuing with the tradition of ‘two Eids’ in one country.

Celebrating Eidul Fitr a day before the rest of the country by many KP inhabitants, under the leadership of Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai of Peshawar, is not a new phenomenon. But for the first time in country’s history it came with official patronage of the provincial government.

The controversy over Shawal moon sighting gained more traction this time because for the first time in many years the same party was heading governments at the Centre and in the KP province, and there were hopes the whole country would celebrate Eid on the same date.

Earlier there used to be a spat over the issue largely between the clerics: Mufti Muneeb led Ruet-e-Halal Committee, which enjoys official status, and the group of ‘rebel’ clerics led by Mufti Popalzai who did not have any official standing until this year. But this time Popalzai succeeded in winning backing of KP government.

And because of this, the row over moon sighting has gained a more political tinge. This was quite evident from the attacks and counterattacks by Federal Minister Fawad Chaudhry and KP Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai.

Even Mufti Muneeb used the occasion of moon sighting announcement on Tuesday night for making scathing attacks not only on the opposite group of clerics but also the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government.

There was in fact division over Eid within KP also, as most of the people celebrated Eid on Tuesday while around 30 percent others preferred following the official Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, according to local sources.

KP chief minister and most of his cabinet celebrated Eid yesterday but provincial governor, who represents the federal government, did not offer Eid prayers saying he would follow the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee.

KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan said they had received many testimonies of moon sighting after which the government made the decision to celebrate on Tuesday.

This is why KP minister Yousafzai was forced to claim that Tuesday’s Eid celebrations in KP had the tacit approval of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, who blasted the KP government and the Popalzai group on Monday, again crtiticized their decision on Tuesday by calling it an “embarrassment.”

Chaudhry in conversation with a private TV channel said it was impossible to see the Shawwal moon on June 3. The federal minister maintained that the decision caused humiliation and gave a perception that lies are supervised by the state itself.

“The government does not get itself involved in sects and local disputes, people are free to celebrate Eid but a religious festival should not be based upon lies,” he said.

The minister of science and technology, who got prepared a 5 year lunar calendar from experts in a bid to end moon sighting controversy, said. “Even Luqman Hakeem had no cure for ignorance.

He went on to say, “The issue of moon sighting will also be resolved eventually as the innovations of printing press, railway and loud speaker were accepted after years of their introduction.

“Societies develop under the leadership of contemporary minds and hopefully the literate class will not remain silent over the matter. We have to reject backward mindset, and wisdom and knowledge will eventually prevail in Pakistan.”

KP minister Shaukat Yousafzai reacted to Chaudhry’s criticism by saying, “I suggest 'Mufti Fawad' focus on his work and not target the government and religious scholars."

He defended the KP government's decision to declare Tuesday as the first day of Eid, suggesting that while they were celebrating Eid on the correct day, the provincial government should have announced the beginning of Ramzan a day earlier.

"We started fasting as per the announcement of Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman but beginning the fast a day earlier would have been [more] accurate," he told a private TV channel. "We will fast for one extra day as compensation for the [missed] fast."

He said it was a misunderstanding that the KP government had announced Eid on Tuesday on the instructions of Mufti Popalzai. He asserted that Prime Minister Imran Khan had been approached before announcing Eid in KP.

"The prime minister responded that 'it is your matter and you understand it better'," Yousafzai added.

Yousafzai also criticised Mufti Muneeb, saying the cleric had raised objection over Chaudhry's efforts to celebrate Eid across the country on the same day. He claimed that Mufti Muneeb says "science has nothing to do with moon-sighting".

"Mufti Muneeb's statement on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project shows his disappointment," the minister said, claiming that Muneeb, instead of presenting arguments, says that the provincial government would not survive.

Yousafzai said that there were differences within the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee as well. "Mufti Muneeb should step aside as retirement happens in every job," he added.



Eid announcement

Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman on Tuesday night announced that moon had been sighted in various parts of the country and Eidul Fitr would be celebrated in the country on Wednesday (today).

He said this in a presser after chairing a meeting of the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee in Karachi. He was accompanied by members of the committee, meteorologists and other officials.

The cleric criticised the KP government for celebrating Eid a day before in the province and said that neither the 18th nor 28th amendment could challenge the Islamic teachings and they would follow the ‘ruet’ to declare moon sighting in the country.

“It is also unfortunate that the PTI led provincial government that announced Eidul Fitr a day before has a central government in place but unable to follow the decisions of the committee that is formed by the government itself.”

Even the Swat constituency of KP Chief Minister Mehmood Khan would be observing Eid on Wednesday while many other parts of the KP - including some parts of Peshawar - will also be celebrating Eid on Wednesday, he said.

“All sects and their allied seminary organisations have complete faith on me and we will be gathering top religious scholars to show our strength and faith on the Central Ruet e Hilal Committee.”

Mufti said that moon sighting has been the issue since the independence of the country and various religious leaders have also been jailed for not following the government orders in this regard.

He further said that Eid would also be celebrated in Indonesia, Malaysia, parts of Arab world, United States, Canada, Bangladesh, India, United Kingdom and other parts of the globe on Wednesday.




Eid celebration in KP

Eidul Fitr was celebrated in most parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday with traditional zeal and fervour. A large number of people offered Eid prayers at a number of places in the provincial metropolis.

KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan offered Eid prayers in Peshawar. Major Eid congregation in Peshawar took place in Jama Masjid Darwesh on the Mall, Masjid Qasim Ali Khan in Misgaran Bazaar, Speen Jamaat on University Road, Zarghuni Masjid in Hayatabad, Masjid Mahabat Khan, Jama Masjid Namak Mandi and Masjid Torqal Bai Bukhari.

Eid prayers were also offered in Miranshah, Lakki Marwat, Mardan, Charsadda and in some part of Peshawar despite the announcement of the unofficial Ruet-e-Hilal setup in Masjid Qasim Ali Khan after receiving over 50 testimonies (of moon sighting). Strict security measures were taken and the police were deployed outside main mosques in the province.

Eidul Fitr was also celebrated in Charsadda, Mardan, Swabi, Nowshera, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Kohat, Hangu and Karak districts.

The faithful in tribal areas, including the recently merged tribal districts including North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Bajaur, Khyber, Mohmand, parts of Orakzai and Kurram Districts offered Eid prayers in their respective areas. Afghan refugees also celebrated Eid on Tuesday.

However, Governor Shah Farman, who is currently in the Natiagali, Governor House, preferred not to celebrate Eid on Tuesday as he has decided to go with the federal government decision. An official of the governor house Peshawar also confirmed that no Eid prayer was offered in the Governor House there.

People residing in cantonment and areas in interior city would also offer Eid today as per announcement of the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee. The main Eid congregations will take place Sunehri Masjid and other mosques in the cantonment area and in the City area today.

People in Haripur, Abbottabad, Mansehra, Kohistan, Battagarm, Dera Ismail Khan, Swat, Buner, Malakand, Chitral, Lower Dir, Upper Dir and Shangla districts would also celebrate the religious festival on the call of the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee.

In Karak, Eid was observed throughout Banda Daud Shah Tehsil. However, celebration of partial Eid was reported in Karak and Takht-i-Nusrati tehsils. In many areas of Karak district, Eidul Fitr will be observed on Wednesday after the central Ruet-e-Hailal Committee announcement.

In Swabi, mostly residents celebrated Eidul Fitr on Tuesday, however, most of the people living in residential colonies of Tarbela Dam and Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology will mark the festival on Wednesday, the expected day for Eid.

The partial Eid was celebrated peacefully amid strict security measures in the provincial capital and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Heavy contingents of police were deployed outside mosques, shopping centres and public places on the Chand Raat and on Tuesday.

No untoward incident was reported from any part of Peshawar or other districts on the first day of Eidul Fitr. Shopkeepers however sold imitation arms and crackers violating ban on them.

KP CM’s message

On this auspices occasion, the chief minister affirmed that the social and moral responsibilities of all the segments of the society should be focused towards achieving societal harmony by undertaking steps for the uplift of the downtrodden segment of the society.

He stated that Pakistan came into being in the name of Islam after rendering of great sacrifices, adding that every segment of the society should work for the protection and betterment of the mother land which will ultimately lead towards a prosperous and progressive future.

The Chief Minister on this occasion also presented his well wishes to security forces adding that their sacrifices have enabled general public to celebrate Eidul Fitr in peace and tranquillity.

He furthered that security forces of Pakistan have always lived up to the expectations of fellow countrymen and have always been successful in shattering the evil intensions of the enemies of Pakistan.