Pakistan plans to introduce “uniform prayer timings” for all sects of Islam across the country, a significant move in a society divided along sectarian lines.
Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf said he will get in touch with chief ministers of all four provinces to introduce ‘Nizam-e-Salat’, The Express Tribune reported.
Elaborating the plan, he said the provincial governments will notify a local timetable, at least at the district level in their respective provinces, for the prayer timings.
These timetables will be formulated according to the local time-zones across Pakistan, the paper said.
Pakistan’s early years were largely peaceful, except for occasional sectarian flare-ups. In 1980s, military ruler Gen Zia-ul Haq’s policies promoted discord among different sects. The Pakistani society is now divided along sectarian lines.
In May 2015, the federal government introduced the system for the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). However, the decision has hardly been implemented in spirit.
The minister said that the government had consulted the met office and religious leaders of Ahle Hadith, Sunni Hanafi (both Deobandi and Barelvi) and Shia sects — before notifying uniform prayer timings for the ICT.
The same pattern will be adopted for a countrywide plan in order to promote uniformity and unity, he said.
Yousaf said that implementing ‘Nizam-e-Salat’ will be the responsibility of the provincial authorities and his ministry has so far been receiving a positive response from them.
In response to a query, he said that 80 per cent of the mosques in the ICT were observing the Nizam-e-Salat and he wants that the same model in implemented in all major cities and districts of the country, the paper said.
However, sources in the religious ministry said that the federal government has so far been unsuccessful to implement uniform prayer timings in ICT despite its claims.
There are around 700 mosques in the capital territory and the managements of a fewer mosques are implementing the calendar of uniform prayer timings.
Yousaf did not set a deadline to implement uniform prayer timings but said this is the priority of the government.
He added that a decision to adopt uniform sermons for Friday’s prayers would also be taken sometime later.