It has emerged during the proceedings of the Senate on Saturday that the Ruet-e-Halal Committee – the official body concerned with sighting the moon and setting the date for Eid holidays – has been operating without it being set up by legislation. Only a resolution was passed in favour of setting up the body in 1974, but resolutions unlike legislative instruments have no authority to do anything, they are just statements of intent by the parliament, usually used for actions such as condemning terrorists attacks and affirming support for governmental ideals.

Why it took 41 years to discover this fact is surely a mystery, and makes one wonder what other bodies, committees and offices are functional in Pakistan without the proper authority. The 26 members of the committee are treated as grade 20 officer of the Federal government with respect to TA, DA, boarding and lodging etc., on the day of their meeting, and draw a salary from the government – all of which is illegal payment. Had it not been for the questioning of the Senate, the body would have gone on to function in illegality for another few decades. The government must conduct a thorough and honest survey of the bureaucratic setup to scour it from unnecessary and unauthorised offices, which drain the public exchequer and clog up effective functioning. The patronage system that is the bedrock – and malaise – of Pakistani politics has spawned countless sham bodies, whose only job is to leech from the public funds.

However, the Ruet-e-Halal committee has served a purpose, and some would argue that the parliament did intend to set it up, even if it did not write the necessary legislation. Yet the matter doesn’t end there. The resolution proposed that a new chairman be appointed to the committee every 3 years, but the incumbent, Mufti Muneebur Rehman, has held on to the office for the past 15 year, without any explanation or cause. Any favourable construing of the matter is lost here; the learned Mufti has been illegally drawing government salary for 12 years – an amount that must now be repaid, and the body disbanded until it is properly formed again.