Three young men were recently caught eating in their car during fasting hours by the police at Daman-e-Koh recently. After exchange of hot words and show of strength from both sides the men were allowed to go by the police.
Incidentally, the police did not book them for violating the Ehtram-i- Ramazan ordinance, possibly because the accused were found to be more influential or maybe the policemen settled the matter with ‘mutual consent’.
The police action against non-fasting individuals caught eating at any public place used to be daily news some years back.
However, now either the police have become more busy in controlling crime and manning the check points, or that they let the offenders go after reaching on the spot settlement – but the number of cases being registered has declined sharply.
An official of Rawalpindi police said that the masses have started to realise that fasting is to be observed and even those who do not fast, seldom eat at public place.
“This is the reason that very few violators are being caught nowadays,” the policeman said.
Similar views were expressed by the Islamabad police personnel, who even said that everybody was taking the law (Ehtram-i-Ramazan ordinance) seriously.
But the fact is that like many regulations in the country this law also provides an excellent opportunity to the police to ‘mint money’ from those not fasting, which also includes even those who are exempted from fasting.
Section 3 of the law says that no person who, according to the tenets of Islam, is under an obligation to fast shall eat, drink or smoke in a public place during fasting hours in the month of Ramazan.
“Whoever contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be punishable with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.”
It clearly shows that men and women who are either travelling or on medical ground cannot fast would not be the violators.
At the same time the main question is where such people, who are not fasting, would go as almost all the options of eating or drinking for them are closed.
“I came from Bahawalpur by bus and due to intense heat I had a bottle of water in my hand. Soon after coming out of the bus terminal even the private guard and taxi driver asked me to hide the bottle, as it might attract the attention of police,” said Liaquat Sami, who came to Islamabad, on an official visit, “Besides, I have some sever acidity issue restricting me from fasting.”
The main sufferers of this law are the not only the travelers but also the local residents who cannot fast due to medical ground or old age, etc., as it is mandatory for all the eateries to remain closed during the fasting hours, and anyone selling food stuff during this time would face the same punishment as those caught eating in public.
The capital administration issued warnings to two posh restaurants in F-6 sectors on Saturday for keeping their outlets open during the day.
While all eateries would be closed during fasting hours there are exemptions allowed in the law, which includes canteen or kitchen maintained in a hospital for serving food to patients, restaurant or canteen within the premises of a railway station, airport, seaport or bus stand or in a train of aircraft. Kitchen or dining-car of a train, kitchen or canteen meant for children within the premises of a primary school.
“Now shuttling between the offices, I cannot go the hospital to get food and worst of all where should I get it,” Mr Liaquat added.
Recently, two youngsters were caught drinking packed juice by the police from the dark alleys of a plaza in F-8 Markaz. They were caught by the collar and dragged in the open by a vigilant cop.
“I saw them buying packs of juices and followed them,” the proud cop told almost everybody who inquired about the reasons for dragging boys. At the same time both the culprits stressed that doctors had advised them not to leave stomach empty.
While the law allows eating at an isolated place hiding from the public eye as its is clearly stated in section 5 which said: “Eatables or articles of smoking shall only be served at a place protected form public view by means of a curtain or otherwise and specify the classes of persons who may be admitted to any such canteen, restaurant, or dining car during fasting hours in the month of Ramazan.”
Incidentally, the police are empowered to decide the merit of the case on the spot. That is why the human right activists have called for repealing the law.
“The whole society needs to come forward to get these laws amended aimed at doing away with the repressive and exploitive system,” said Tahira Abdullah, eminent social rights activists.
She said but most of the legislators are scared of religious extremists that was why they did not speak over such matters.
“We have seen what happened to the innocent man Governor Taseer . I do not want to become first female shaheed at the hands of another zealot,” said a PPP MNA.
Though many MNAs and senators refused to talk over amendments or revoking Ehtram-i-Ramzan Ordinance, but Riaz Pirzada, PML-Q MNA said that implementing the laws that relate to the general masses has become a joke in the county.
“There are laws but nothing has been done against banned religious terrorists,” Mr Pirzada said adding, “As far as Ehtram-i-Ramazan is concerned this is something to do with the belief of Muslims and cannot be forced upon them.”
He also said that fasting comes once a year but prayers are a daily routine.
“Now based on this law the government should be taking the responsibility to establish ‘Salat committees and enforce it, as if there is nothing else to do.”