By Liaquat Baloch
The holy month of Ramadan has started in different parts of the world. While the philosophy of fasting in the month of Ramadan is to realise a human being of the hunger and needs of other fellows, people in Pakistan see this time of the year to make fortunes. The government did not take measures against the high prices of essential foodstuffs in the previous months of Ramadan. As a result, people were compelled to buy the food items at high rates in the whole country. In short, the administration did not give any relief to the people.
The constitution of Pakistan does guarantee for Islamic lifestyle. Islamic lifestyle is not only limited to following rituals individually. There is more to such a lifestyle. Such a way of life also preaches tolerance, benevolence, generosity, and refraining from the exploitation of the needy ones. It is the responsibility of the state to implement it. However, our government did not pay heed to what’s enshrined in the constitution in the previous months of light and blessings. All Islamic countries of the world make special preparations for this month. But in Pakistan, the government does not give importance to this month. That is why people fail to buy essential items at low rates even in this month.
Jamaat Islami Pakistan (JIP) has been trying to draw the attention of the government since many years. This column serves the purpose of presenting JIP’s demands to solve the problems of the people. The state should take serious and result-oriented steps in this regard. The availability of essential food items should be ensured so that people can devote their energies to attain spiritual purity instead of getting worried in search of food items.
JIP thinks that the government of Pakistan should meet the following twenty demands so that people’s rights can be secured.
1. The state should issue a code of conduct for provincial and Federal governments and the relevant institutions to take appropriate steps that can ensure the provision of essential food items at cheap rates to everyone.
2. The government should provide subsidies on all items at least a 30 % discount, especially on eatables. The government can achieve the purpose if it establishes two Ramadan Bazars in every union council.
3. Hawkers and fruit vendors if found in violation of the government rates should not be penalized excessively. Nor should their goods be confiscated. If someone is found in violation of not selling according to the prices set by the government, they should be warned only. However, if they are found guilty of violation again, then some penalty, which they are able to pay, should be imposed upon them.
4. While the government provided subsidy on different items in utility stores, however, lack of check and balance was the reason why people did not benefit much from the subsidies. People would buy items at higher prices even in utility stores. To provide relief to the common man, the state should announce a Ramadan package of at least 15 billion rupees.
5. The previous experiences show that people had no other choice but to buy substandard things from the utility stores. The state should ensure the provision of items of good quality.
6. The rulers should make a comprehensive plan to control the shortage of food and high prices. The state needs to convince the traders and industrialists to keep the prices of their goods low.
7. The announcement of relief package should be circulated through print as well as electronic media so that maximum people are made aware. An official should be appointed in every UC to check the whole process. He should register the complaints of the people and try to provide them remedies.
8. The supply of gas, water and electricity should be ensured. The government should take necessary steps for an uninterrupted flow of these services, especially during iftar and suhoor.
9. The prices of electricity and petroleum should not be increased at any cost. Big Brands should also be advised to lower down the prices of their products.
10. The immoral posters on roadsides and outside the cinemas should be removed during the month of Ramadan. All shisha centres should be sealed. Police should be given complete authority to control the immorality. TV talk shows and other substandard programmes should be banned. Otherwise, the purpose of fasting is defeated if all worldly activities go in full swing.
11. State-controlled and private TV channels should allocate more time for the recitation and explanation of the Holy Quran. There should be a ban on the absurd and immoral songs FM Radio channels play around the year.
12. The order of The Supreme Court in the case against a ban on Prize shows should be strictly implemented. The audio and video recordings in buses, vans, and public places should be banned and traffic police should be given authority to control it.
13. All signboards, hoardings, banners and posters that are against the Islamic lifestyle should be removed from roads.
14. All people who deal in the business of immoral audio and video material should be banned in the month of Ramadan.
15. Electronic media should present such programmes in which the blessings of Ramadan and the importance of fasting are explained.
16. The government of Pakistan should ensure that Ramadan and Eid are celebrated on the days it announces. No one should be allowed to make his own announcements in this regard. The state can and should use modern scientific instruments to determine what day Ramadan starts on and what day Eid will be.
17. The state should implement the Ramadan Ordinance 1981 strictly. Its implementation should be checked weekly.
18. Keeping in view the previous bitter experiences, the government should start its arrangements for Ramadan at least a month before the holy month starts.
19. Special security arrangements should be made outside the mosques and Imam Barghas at the time of the Jumma prayer and Taraveh.
20. The federation should reduce working hours of the workers. If someone is working in an office around sehri and iftar, foodstuffs should be provided to that individual. They should be given salary and Eidi before Eid. They should have holidays also.
We hope that the government will use all its sources to address the demands mentioned above and ensure the sanctity of Ramadan. JIP appeals for donations for the poor and the needy people of the whole country.
(The writer is the general secretary of Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan.)
By Liaquat Baloch