The moon-sighting controversy which has become a regular feature started in the early sixties when the people of Karachi celebrated two Eids. President Ayub Khan expressed surprise and said that people should know that the science of astronomy could accurately predict the appearance of the moon. However, the mullahs did not believe in astronomy because they thought it was an invention of the Christian West and for some years, the residents of Karachi used to observe Eid a day after the official Eid announced by the government. In a way, this was an expression of resentment against the unpopular president.
But for the past few years, for some strange reason the moon has always been sighted in the north of the country a day earlier than in the rest of Pakistan, although (as in the case this year) both SUPARCO and the MET Department ruled out the sighting of the moon throughout the country.
In fact, in 1973, when I was in Peshawar, people celebrated two Eid-al-Azhas (the date for which had been fixed ten days before), as some men from the mountains arrived the night before and announced that they had sighted the moon a day before the government did. And after what happened this year, it’s clear that the illiterate clerics in the NWFP would rather accept the evidence of unreliable villagers instead of scientific proof to the contrary. A pity, really, because the infidels have already reached the moon and are now planning visits to other planets like Mars.