The Ministry of Religious Affairs is preparing the draft of the ‘Pakistan Ruet-e-Hilal Bill 2017’ which will bar electronic/print media and other individuals from announcing news about moon-sightings prior to the official announcement by the chairman of the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee.
The ministry is considering slapping a fine ranging between Rs200,000 and RsRs500,000 on individuals and private organisations and a larger penalty on media houses announcing the moon-sighting before the official announcement.
A senior official of the ministry, who wished not to be named, said that the draft bill was in its initial stages.
The draft bill was aimed at streamlining the functioning of the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, setting selection criteria for its chairman, his tenure, besides helping end the annual feature of Eid controversies.
He said that the move was in response to an incident that took place last year in which Chairman of Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Mufti Muneebur Rehman flew into a rage over the media’s premature coverage of the Eidul Fitr moon sighting.
According to him, there were some so-called private Ruet-e-Hilal Committees across Pakistan, who were in the habit of announcing moon-sightings on insufficient and baseless evidence.
“There is no law under which individuals or media houses can be punished for making premature announcements … After this draft bill is approved (by parliament), the ministry of religious affairs will be authorised to take action against such individuals or organisations. Moon-sighting is a sensitive matter and any misleading news could deceive millions of Muslims,” he said.
“This bill will help address all such issues,” he said.
This year, the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee for sighting the crescent of Ramazan is scheduled to hold a meeting on May 26 in Islamabad. Committees would be held at their respective headquarters simultaneously.
Noor Salam Shah, the DG (R&R), Ministry of Religious Affairs said: “Because there is still no law stopping any media channel or any private committee from announcing the moon-sighting before the official announcement, we can only request them to cooperate with us,” he said.
Credit: Express News