Around 11pm on Tuesday evening, Pakistanis were informed that the next day would be Eid. This late hour announcement may be unusual but comes at a time when there is growing criticism over the manner in which the Eid moon in sighted by the officially appointed Ruet-e-Hilal Committee.
The commitee, which meets on a yearly basis, spends its time on the 29th of Ramazan atop the Habib Bank Plaza in Karachi, which was once the tallest building in the country. If they decide the moon has been sighted, Eid can be celebrated on the next day.
Otherwise it is one more day of fasting for Muslims of the country.
The Moulvis and Ulema are seen with their telescopes peering into the skies. It is after much discussion and communication — Moulvis from other parts of the country also phone in if they have sighted the moon, that the annual "announcement" is made on national television.
Many Pakistanis say there are more scientific ways to look for the moon. But the Ruet-e-Hilal committee insists that the moon should be visible to the naked eye and the person seeing it must be backed by some witnesses. The Bohri community, which is a small sect in the country, works by the calender and has no time for the committee's theatrics. Neither do people of the North West Frontier Province have any time for Mufti Muneeb, the man who heads the moon sighting committee.
In most instances, the people of the NWFP end up celebrating Eid one day before the country. In the past, politics has come into play even in such revered matters as moon sighting. While the shopkeepers are happy to have one more day before Eid, so that more sales can take place, there are some who want to avoid certain days.
For example, there is a myth that if Eid falls on a Friday, it can cause the death of a Muslim leader. In the past, when there was such a chance, it is said that the late General Zia intervened to have it stopped. This time round, however, it is said another kind of politics took place. The goverment wants to work improving relations with the people of the NWFP, which is currently seeing much violence in the form of government military action as well as militant attacks.
That is why a last minute change of plan was made and Mufti Muneeb, who had made a decision at 6 pm was then made to change it at 11 pm much to the surprise of most Pakistanis.