ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs on Wednesday unanimously approved the Ehtram-e-Ramazan (Amendment) Bill, 2017 under which fine for the hotel owners – violating the Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance, 1981 – has been increased from Rs500 to Rs25,000.
People who will smoke or eat openly during Ramazan will be fined Rs500 along with 3-month imprisonment. TV channels or cinema houses that violate the law will be fined Rs500,000 or more.
The amendment bill was introduced by Senator Tanveer Khan in the Senate sitting held on January 16 and was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs for further consideration.
During the meeting, Tanveer requested the committee to take strict action against people who violate the law during Ramazan. Earlier the committee members suggested closing down cinema houses for three hours early in the morning and later for three hours after Iftar during Ramazan.
Minister of State for Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony Pir Amin Ul Hasnat Shah suggested that all the cinema houses across the country should remain closed throughout the holy month.
Issues related to Ruet-e-Hilal committee
Discussing the issues pertaining to Ruet-e-Hilal committee, the committee’s chairman Senator Hafiz Hamdullah urged the ministry to resolve the issue of moon sighting across the country. The ministry’s officials told the senator that they had discussed the issue with all the relevant provincial departments.
It was suggested that the term of Ruet-e-Hilal committee should be made four years at federal, provincial and district levels. The committee should have two representatives each from all provinces and one representative each from federal capital, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
It was also suggested that directors general of Met Office and the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) as well as a representative from the ministry be also made part of the moon-sighting panel.
Pir Amin Ul Hasnat Shah informed the committee that the federal government had not allocated any dedicated budget for the Ruet-e-Hilal committee due to which its chairman along with its members were working without salary and perks since the committee was constituted in 1974.
He said several times the Ministry of Religious Affairs had raised this issue at various levels and forums but so far no one had paid any heed to it.
“They believe that the role of the committee is not much as it only functions three to four times throughout the year. They forget that this committee has a major role to play as it announces most important religious events for the entire nation,” he said.
Shah said even when the chairman and committee members travel to other city on an official visit they only get air ticket and stay at a 2-star hotel. “They do not get any TA/DA. Meanwhile, they also do not have money to load credit in their cell phones to do office work,” he added.
He said 26 members of the committee are performing their duties under chairman Mufti Munibur Rehman, who has been performing his duties for the past 15 years.
The minister said currently there was no criterion for appointing/selecting a member for the committee. “Right now whoever applies for the membership becomes a member,” he said.
Shah suggested reducing the number of the committee members from 26 to 9. “The less the number of members, the easier it will be for the federal government to allocate budget for their salaries,” he said.
Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari has severely criticised the Ehtram-e-Ramazan (Amendment) Bill which prohibits eating and drinking in public during the month of Ramazan.
In a tweet, the daughter of former president Asif Ali Zardari said, “People are going to die from heat stroke and dehydration with this ridiculous law. Not everyone is able. This is not Islam.”
The oldest daughter of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto insisted that the law was outrageous as it failed to consider that not everyone will be fasting in the month of Ramazan.
“Not everyone in Pakistan will be fasting ─ Children in school, the elderly, people with medical issues ─ Should we arrest them for drinking water?” Bakhtawar highlighted in her tweet.