ISLAMABAD – The Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs on Wednesday unanimously approved the Ehtram-e-Ramazan (Amendment) Bill, 2017 under which people who will smoke or eat openly during Ramazan will be fined Rs500 along with 3-month imprisonment.

According to the bill, fine for hotel owners violating the Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance, 1981 has been increased from Rs500 to Rs25,000 but a hefty fine  Rs500,000 or more has been recommended for TV channels or cinema houses violating the law.

The amendment bill was introduced by Senator Tanveer Khan in the Senate sitting held on January 16 and was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs for further consideration.

During the meeting, Tanveer requested the committee to take strict action against people who violate the law during Ramazan. Earlier the committee members suggested closing down cinema houses for three hours early in the morning and later for three hours after Iftar during Ramazan.

But Minister of State for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Pir Amin Ul Hasnat Shah suggested that all the cinema houses across the country should remain closed throughout the holy month.

Pir Amin Ul Hasnat Shah disclosed that the federal government had not allocated any dedicated budget for the Ruet-e-Hilal committee due to which its chairman along with its members were working without salary and perks since the committee was constituted in 1974.

He said the Ministry of Religious Affairs had raised this issue several times at various levels and forums but so far no one had paid any heed to it.

“They believe that the role of the committee is not much as it only functions three to four times throughout the year. They forget that this committee has a major role to play as it announces most important religious events for the entire nation,” he said.

Shah said even when the chairman and committee members travel to other cities on an official visit they only get air ticket and stay at a 2-star hotel.

“They do not get any TA/DA. Meanwhile, they also do not have money to load credit in their cell phones to do office work,” he added.

He said 26 members of the committee are performing their duties under chairman Mufti Munibur Rehman, who has been performing his duties for the past 15 years.