Pakistan’s government has provoked the wrath of conservative mullahs as it called for a science-based lunar calendar to calculate the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in the Asian country, which faces an annual controversy over the date.
The beginning of the ninth and holiest month in the Muslim calendar- as well as the Eid holidays - is determined by the sighting of the new moon.
In Pakistan a cleric-led "moonsighting committee" announces when the fasting should begin, but for decades it has faced disputes over the accuracy of its decision.
"Every year on the occasion of Ramadan, Eid and Muharram a controversy starts regarding moonsighting," said Pakistan's science and technology minister, Fawad Chaudhry, criticized the committee use of "old technology" - telescopes - to make their calculations.
"When modern means are available and we can determine a final date, the question is why we should not use this latest technology?" he argued.
His ministry will form a new committee of scientists, meteorologists and Pakistan's space agency to calculate the correct dates for the next five years with "100 percent accuracy.”
Meanwhile, Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, head of the moonsighting committee, criticized Chaudhry’s interference in such sensitive religious affairs.
"I have appealed to prime minister Imran Khan that only the concerned minister should talk about religious matters," he said in a press conference in Karachi.