Friday, September 10, 2010

Lunar Lunacy, Once Again

I tell you, thank God for Aisam-ul-Haq! Because even though he lost the mixed doubles finals at the US Open today, there was far more grace in his losing than in anything else that has been going on in Pakistan.

Another Eid, another moon-sighting controversy and another bunch of lunatic maulvis. I refer you to my post last year on the same issue, aptly titled "The Rot That is the Ruet." But while that particular post was about the sheer idiocy of the whole moon-sighting exercise - which continues unabated - today we have sunk to even further depths.

In case you were rightly and fortunately more engrossed in the tennis, here is the situation so far:

The Central Ruet-e-Hilal (Moon Sighting) Committee, tasked with looking for the moon in the sky throughout Pakistan, announced that the new moon had not been sighted anywhere in the country. Therefore Eid would take place day after, i.e. Saturday (incidentally, on 9/11), in Pakistan. Fair enough, though Saudi Arabia and a bunch of other countries will of course be celebrating it tomorrow (Friday) 'cause their 30 rozas are already up. This was pretty much in line with what the Met Office had already predicted, that it would be almost impossible to see the very, very faint new moon anywhere in Pakistan with the naked eye, particularly with its transient 'rising' and 'setting' times, except perhaps in the far reaches of Balochistan. But since nobody sighted it in Balochistan either, it was decided that the new moon was not visible.

Popalzai Live: eagle-eyed

Enter Masjid Qasim Khan in Peshawar and its rebel mullah Shahabuddin Popalzai. Like last year, he announces two or three hours after any scientific possibility of anyone seeing the moon, that the moon has been sighted all over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province and therefore Eid would take place tomorrow. Also like last year, the KP senior minister Batshit Bashir Bilour (supposedly representing the secular ANP), then jumps into the fray to give his support to Shahabuddin and to announce that the province would officially observe Eid tomorrow. He justifies this bizarre announcement, which basically once again means that KP will officially celebrate Eid a day before the rest of Pakistan, under the excuse of provincial autonomy and that the provincial government must respect its own clerics. You know the 18th Amendment has got sidetracked when you hear such logic. WTF?

Of course this is not the first time people in KP seem to be on their own timeline. For some odd reason, the moon is far more visible in KP and Peshawar than anywhere to the west or east of them. But it doesn't end here. Baba Haider Zaman, the septuagenarian head of the Sooba Hazara Tehrik, which has been demanding that the Hazara region be separated from KP and made into a separate province, then decides to add his two bits and announces that the entire Hazara region in KP will not follow the provincial announcement and observe Eid according to the Central Ruet diktat.

So you now have one date (1st Shawwal) in all of KP tomorrow except for the Hazara region, while the rest of Pakistan will be on a different date (30th Ramzan) along with the Hazara region which incidentally is still part of KP. I was getting infuriated with the sheer lunacy of all this until it struck me that, in fact, this is a brilliant, brilliant turn of events. After all if every area, nay every mosque, can decide the date for itself, the logical progression has to be that every individual can decide the date as well. I think next year I will declare Eid whenever I think I've had enough of fasters' bad manners. It's every man (and woman) for themselves and after this precedent, who can challenge me?

On a more serious note, however, doesn't this lunacy perfectly encapsulate the total breakdown of state power and governance in Pakistan? Here we ponder how the state can extract more taxes from an intransigent elite, ensure provincial harmony or clamp down on terrorists, but really, the state cannot even find a consensus on a date.

As I said, thank God for Aisam. Maybe he should just moon these mullahs.


Anonymous said...

Sharing an SMS I got this evening:

"Mufti Muneeb Ki Mazhar Majeed Se Mulaqat ... Eid-ul-Fitr Saturday ko FIX! :)
Fix Eid Mubarak!"

takhalus said...

I really don't see what the big deal is, till two or three decades ago moon sightings were mostly a local phenomenon.

As far as Haider Zaman is concerned, the Hazara region, Swat, Dir, DI Khan and Chitral have always followed the Federal govt. Haider Zamans pronouncements are more political point scoring.

Here in Britain everyones celebrating it on friday as are most Muslim countries from here to Afghanistan. If anything else I am happy that Eid is not on 9/11!

PS Eid Mubarak

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

uff !! tum tou bohot takleef mai ho xyz.

Asad Jibran Ahmed said...

@takhalus: While it is true that moon sighting was localized decades ago, that is not how a governance system is supposed to work. Do you ever hear of anyone from Saudi Arab deciding to celebrate Eid one day after every one else. If you are supposed to be part of a country, you should use the same darn calendar as well.

A very nice post, quite well written.

Imran Khan said...

This is basically a rift between Deobandis and Barelvis that gets spilled into Pakhtuns vs the Rest.

The problem is not new, in Peshawar, the announcement that is made from the pulpit is that "they" dont believe in our shahadats. the reaction to that is such that, even Aftab Sherpao, as chief minister announced a seperate eid during one of BBs tenures, and so did the MMA government, so its not just the ANP.

Furthermore, Mufti Munib has been sitting on this position for the past 10 years now, this position should be rotated within the sects or better still simply give the MET department authority over the exercise.

Talking in scientific terms does not leave any room for these molvis, or for that matter any shahadats.

Asad Jibran Ahmed said...

@Imran Khan: while a good suggestion about handing over the duty to the MET department, it still won't solve the problem. If, as you say, this is a sectarian related issue, there is simply no easy way to solve this (at least in my opinion). Anyone who wants to disagree with the rest of Pakistan WILL always find a reason, and that reason will always be accompanied with faulty logic, like saying that you have sighted the moon at a time when it is scientifically impossible for the moon to be actually visible.

Perhaps a unified voting based Ruet committee with members from each province + sect might help this a bit.

Anonymous said...

Baba Haider Zaman just wanted to be in the limelight for the day.

Hazara and Swat have always celebrated Eid with the government.

As surprising as it might be, some people if not most in Peshawar are celebrating Eid on 11th September. So it's just a few districts - Peshawar, Nowshera, Mardan and Swabi. Sanity still prevails in some pockets of the province.

You're right. Thank God for Aisam.

Anonymous said...

I don't see what the big deal is.
People go on and on about how "the writ of state has been challenged by the people of KP." When the writ of state is challenged, its about serious issues, like the creation of a parallel judicial system, the complete breakdown of policing and the ineffectiveness of the revenue department. This, you just call having two Eids. No biggie.

I have to point out the sheer hypocrisy of some people here, though. The condemnation should be evenly spread. How come Popalzai's an asshole but having a committee that does rueet of the hilaal in the 21st bloody century is all good and rational?

Anonymous said...

This has to mainly do with the Pakhtoon thinking, A symptom of their false pride. Scientifically it was against laws of nature to observe the crescent on Sep 9. predicts just as our Met office did that it was simply not possible to observe the moon in Pakistan. Yet ethnic chauvanism can bring out the moon where it does not exist!

Anonymous said...

Why did my grandad to migrate?

TLW said...

@ Anon 3:22 Fuck off whiner