With Ehtram-e-Ramazan, we might as well change our flag and make it all green

Published: May 13, 2017
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Last year, an 80-year-old Hindu man was beaten up brutally by a policeman for eating rice 40 minutes before iftar time.

Pakistan never ceases to shock me. Be it its controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB) 2015 which could get us in prison for tweeting against the powers that be, or the formidable strategy of fighting terrorism by banning pillion riding, the government has come up with creative ways to use the law against the public.

Staying true to its tradition, the government has recently announced another bill which states that smoking or eating in public during the month of Ramazan will lead to three-month imprisonment for the “offender” along with a fine of Rs500. This has been proposed as the Ehtram-e-Ramazan (Amendment) Bill, 2017.

There have been mixed reactions to this amendment. Some people are appreciating this feat, whereas others are flabbergasted by it. And then there are those who are justifying this law as the “rule of the land” and stating that since other countries have such ridiculous rules as well, so why can’t we?

This line of argument is flawed on various levels. Firstly, just because everyone is doing something wrong, doesn’t mean we have to jump the bandwagon as well. There is already a very prominent sense of discrimination which minority religions face in this country, and such a law would only increase their sense of alienation. If that is the aim, then why not remove the white part of the flag and make it all green, just like our revered Saudi friends?

Secondly, if we focus on the law itself, we can see some major fallacies. To begin with, how do we even define public spaces? Is it restaurants and cafes outside? What about office spaces then? Aren’t they public spaces as well? If yes, then what are working non-Muslims and non-practicing Muslims supposed to do then? Have their lunches in the bathroom or the store room? The logic used behind phrasing this law is dumbfounding.

Another problem with this law is the indirect pressure it puts on people to fast, even if they don’t want to fast or if they can’t fast. What if somebody is unable to fast due to health-related issues? What about senior citizens? Should they make it a point to stay indoors during lunch hours to escape prosecution? What about menstrual women, who cannot fast during their time of the month? Should they hide away too, in order to eat a proper meal? Practically speaking, this bill does not make sense.

Lastly, there have been multiple forecasts about heat strokes being a major threat for Pakistanis this summer. Should an individual find a safe private space to have a drink or a meal, while they are being affected by the stroke or are unable to bear the heat? Bakhtawar Bhutto, sister of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto, has been quick in mentioning this concern and refuting the tenant of this bill completely.

Furthermore, being the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, what about the glaring contradiction of our religion and the Holy Quran which clearly states that there is no compulsion in religion (2:256).

Bills such as this not only give Pakistan a bad name internationally but also make its people lose faith in their government. The damage made by this announcement should be rectified and the amendment should be redacted immediately. Besides this, the committee should also give a statement that if someone is, God forbid, found eating in public spaces, a lynching mob need not be organised to teach the “offender” a lesson. Case in point, last year, an 80-year-old Hindu man was beaten up brutally because he was found eating rice 40 minutes before iftar time. To make matters worse, he was assaulted by a police officer.

The reputed and esteemed Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs needs to answer these questions before implementing this bill into the law. Pakistan has an obligation to protect its minority groups and give them the freedom to practice whichever religion they wish to practice.

Let’s preach more about acceptance and love instead of intolerance and hatred.

Faiq Lodhi

Faiq Lodhi

A journalism grad and news-buff, his interests include current affairs, arts, literature and social work. He tweets as @FaiqLodhi (twitter.com/FaiqLodhi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ashraf Patel

    Even taliban were not this jahil. Why Pakistanis cry discrimination in west when they dont give even basic right of eating to minorities.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    that is known as culture of “entitlement”. In Muslim nations, everubody needs to dress like Muslims. But if west tries to impose these rules in “their” nations, its Islamophobia.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    The flag should technically only be 2% white.Recommend

  • wb

    What a great,yet naive question to ask. This is not about Pakistan or even Muslims. This is a question of Islam. Why Islam discriminates against others!Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Well written!
    Indeed, all heavy construction jobs should be halted during the month because the workers will not be allowed to drink water to stay alive!Recommend

  • Ravi Blr

    If I look back at what Pakistan has done to its minorities, the Pak flag should be all red, red for blood!Recommend

  • Pasha

    The sheer stupidity of our government knows no bounds.Recommend

  • Faisal

    Lol on Liberals. Im living in dubai for past 10 years. Although dubai is far more progressive than Pakistan & there are almost every nationality living here but in Ramadan even non muslims are allowed to eat openly. Any person caught Eating(Muslim or Nonmuslim) have to pay heavy fines. Recommend

  • Zahid

    This is bigotry legislated. Disgusting. Recommend

  • Azfer

    Bro similar laws are followed in other islamic countries. Do Pakistan have more nationalities and religions living together then in UAE, obviously no but still UAE has strict laws regarding public eating. I think you take it wrong. It is also evident that non muslims in Pakistan celebrated their religious occasions freely and even muslims supported them. You are journalist you must know better.
    I think that in Pakistan making issue of nothing is called journalism.Recommend

  • Aisha Khalid

    Very well written article… appreciated.Recommend

  • SHAH S

    Dont agree with you on flag color change that flag color change to be all Green; Minorities have their full rights per Covenants of Islam and also as per our Constitution; But the way the things are progressing on law and order front, actually it should be all Black, as now we have such brainless bigots, morons & ‘Khawarij’ running loose in the country, those wearing long bushy filthy beards with no knowledge about Islam and what Quran teaches; It is these long bushy filthy bearded bigots who are the main cause of such mayhem and anarchy; The government in seat is in cahoots with them enabling continuity of their Rule. Unless all these ‘Khawarij’, the Dogs of Hell are exterminated on sight and without mercy [as our Prophet Mohammad (SAW) said] ; The situation on the ground is that there seems to be fear hidden behind this chaos and confusion; Time for silent majority to wake up and take action and get rid of this menace forever;Recommend

  • Nana

    I’m a Muslim and strongly believe that those who belong to other communities should be allowed to eat publicly. I do not mind if Muslims who are not fasting, eat publicly. My faith is not that weak and do not need such kind of crutches. Each individual is answerable for his/her own deeds so why make so much fuss.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    I am going to eat and drink openly in Ramazan, in defiance of this silly bill.Recommend

  • Ak

    Read the bill please. It’s applicable on Muslims only. And to all the Indians commenting here… judging a nation by blogs and social media hyperbole will only mislead you.Recommend

  • only truth is nature

    i agree with the comments of Shahid.Recommend

  • Farhan Khan

    You would do it anyways.. havin a Muslim name is no guarantee of being honored and gifted as Muslim…Recommend

  • Aamir Shah

    Agree with you.

    My brother, Faiq has quoted a verse from the Quran, But the meaning he took is wrong. The compulsion in Religion is about not forcing people to become muslims, and not for muslims to follow the rules and laws of islam.

    Let me quote another Verse from the same Chapter:
    ‘The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.’ (Quran 2.185)

    So leaving the fasting during the Ramadan for no apparent reason is abandoning one of the pillars of Islam, and is committing a grave major sin.

    As for the proposed ruling, I think its good that ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN has come up with this, better late than never.

    Why do you forget that PAKISTAN is an Islamic republic, rules like these are common in other Islamic countries, why should Pakistan be any different.

    As for the rights of Non Muslims, no one is stopping them from doing what they are doing, they should simply show respect to Islamic practice for one month.

    Brother Faiq, you should rejoice for this rule, so that your temptations will be not tingled in this holy month.

    This article is like making a mountain out of molehill.

    May Allah give us all the strength to fulfill this essential principal of Islam with utmost fulfillment and give us all the patience in this hot and summer Ramadan. Ameen.Recommend

  • Nana

    You must be very uninformed person about Islam. There is no sanctions in Islam on non Muslims to eat publicly. It is actually something borrowed from Saudi Arabia. And we all know the Saudis. You need to broaden up your horizon and look beyond cow slaughter issues. I know, I know you’ll get worked up now and start slinging mud on me. Recommend

  • siesmann

    That means Muslims in India should stop eating beef to show respect to religions that don’t allow it.Recommend

  • siesmann

    It is mostly stupidity of mullahs.Recommend

  • rationalist

    “What are working non-Muslims and non-practicing Muslims supposed to do? Have their lunch in the bathroom?”
    No. They have the option of moving out of Pakistan or convert to Islam and practice the faith.Recommend

  • abhi

    I think it is a good regulation. Why trying to pretend otherwise. Pakistan was made for Islam and it is their duty to follow it to letter. Others who are living in Pakistan should follow this or leave the country. It is as simple as that.Recommend

  • abhi

    yes nice suggestion. I think following the religion is more important that constructing some stupid building.Recommend

  • KAASI

    is it indian newspaper. ?? lol:)
    the site should be tribune.com.inRecommend

  • http://tribune.com.pk/ p r sharma

    Pakistan was created on the doctrine that Muslims can’t live peacefully with Hindu majority population . ( two nation theory) . So there is no surprise at this enactment. But the same Muslim will cry for violation of religious rights when there is a ban on full veil in a country that too for safety reasons.Recommend

  • Asad Cheema

    Its all about your thinking and mental approach, every story has two sides. Its about respecting the Islam and Even non Muslims do that. You are sitting on the wrong side of boat.Recommend

  • Gulam hussain

    I am from india … i apriciate your feeling for us…think you bro but
    Dont compare islam with other religion
    Islam is peacefull religion so just follow it peacefully

    Think youRecommend