ISLAMABAD:  Pakistan plans to introduce “uniform prayer timings” for all sects of Islam across the country, a significant move in a society divided along sectarian lines.

Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Mohammad Yousuf said that most mosques in Islamabad have been following the uniform timings for seven months.

“This is a success of the policy to develop coherence among all Muslims,” the minister was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper.

The ministry had established a Nizam-e-Salat committee, comprising ulema from the Barelvi, Shia, Ahle Hadith and Deobandi sects and officials from the ministry, the report said.

Elaborating the government’s decision, the minister said that the provincial governments will notify a local timetable, at least at the district level in their respective provinces, for the prayer timings.

These timetables will be formulated according to the local time-zones across Pakistan.

The same pattern will be adopted for a countrywide plan in order to promote uniformity and unity, the minister said.

Pakistan’s early years were largely peaceful, except for occasional sectarian flare-ups. In 1980s, military dictator Gen Zia-ul Haq’s policies promoted discord among different sects. The Pakistani society is now divided along sectarian lines.

In May 2015, the federal government introduced the system for the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). However, the decision has hardly been implemented in spirit.

There are around 700 mosques in the capital territory and the managements of a fewer mosques are implementing the calendar of uniform prayer timings.

Implementing ‘Nizam-e-Salat’, Yousaf said, will be the responsibility of the provincial authorities and his ministry has so far been receiving a positive response from them in this connection.

He did not set a deadline to implement uniform prayer timings but said this is the priority of the government.

He added that a decision to adopt uniform sermons for Friday’s prayers would be taken sometime later.