Ignoring a hilarious faux pas in which the Federal Minister for Science and Technology stated that Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) was responsible for launching the Hubble telescope into space, Fawad Chaudhry’s reassignment from the Information Ministry has not gone too poorly. In fact, a portfolio that usually ends up being associated with near anonymity in past governments might have found someone willing to make practical changes that might be important in the long run.

A prime example of this is Mr Chaudhry’s recommendation to replace the Ruet-i-Hilal committee with scientists that use the technological instruments available to them to sight the moon; not only that but he also recommended that a ten-year calendar be prepared for key Islamic dates which could help in future predictive patterns as well. The Ruet-i-Hilal committee has lived long past its expiry date, a body to sight the moon four times a year cost the national exchequer Rs3.06 million last year; an amount that could be better utilised if spent elsewhere. Mr Chaudhry’s criticism of the body; claiming that it seeks the help of Suparco to use its telescopes anyway, is also sensible. If a telescope is needed to sight the moon, why must clerics make a ceremony out of it unnecessarily?

Following tradition purely for the sake of it is not really wise considering it costs money, causes confusion and is a yearly dose of suspense that no one really needs. It is positive to see that Fawad Chaudhry has not been idle in his time at the helm of the Ministry of Science and Technology and it is hoped that the Prime Minister supports him in his bid to bring the quarterly moon sighting programme to the 21st century. The Ruet-i-Hilal committee has not been needed for a long time; one can only hope that the rest of the government accepts this as well.