AA ISLAMABAD - A conflict between science and religion has stirred yet another controversy in Pakistan with the government introducing its first-ever lunar calendar.

Pakistan last Sunday launched its official moon-sighting website and lunar calendar for the next five years marking the Islamic months and special occasions including the beginning of Ramazan, Eidul Fitr and Eidul Azha.

“This is the first official website of the country which marks the important religious festivals for the next five years,” Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, the minister of science and technology, told reporters in Islamabad.

The move aims to end controversy surrounding moon-sighting in the country with various clerics fighting for relevance.

Pakistah has a Ruet-e-Hilal (moon-sighting) committee comprising various religious scholars. The body formed in 1974 was tasked with announcing religious holidays based on witnesses across the country who had sighted the moon.

However, over the years a cleric based in Peshawar began opposing the committee by announcing the start of Ramazan and Eid a day earlier.

This year, the Qasim Ali Khan Mosque committee, a Peshawar-based group of clerics, announced the start of Ramazan on May 6, while the rest of the country observed it on May 7.

Chaudhry is facing the ire of religious clerics associated with the moon-sighting committee.

Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman has rejected the move to use the pre-decided lunar calendar. In a Facebook message, Rehman said he will follow the Sharia (Islamic law) and sight the moon using the naked eye.

“Those who are not familiar with intricate religious matters should not comment on them,” he added.

However, the public appreciated the government effort to resolve the decade-long controversy.

“I appreciate the government efforts but it should create a consensus between religious scholars and resolve the moon-sighting controversy forever,” said Zahid Shah, a university student in Peshawar.

Many Muslim-majority countries including the UAE and Turkey follow a pre-decided lunar calendar to mark religious holidays and festivals.