World Islamic Finance Forum hears of Pakistan’s economic plans and progress

Dr Miftah Ismail, Advisor to Prime Minister on finance, Revenue and economic affairs speaks at the inaugural session of World Islamic Finance Forum 2018. (AN photo)
Updated 19 March 2018
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World Islamic Finance Forum hears of Pakistan’s economic plans and progress

KARACHI: The government of Pakistan is planning to issue Islamic bonds worth Rs100 billion ($900 million) by the end of the current government’s tenure, the opening session of the World Islamic Finance Forum 2018 has heard.
Dr. Miftah Ismail, adviser to the prime minister on finance, revenue and economic affairs, also revealed that a scheme enabling Pakistanis to bring US dollars from abroad and declare the assets will be launched this month.
Ismail said that for the first time in 10 years, Pakistan is on course to achieve growth in gross domestic product of six percent by the end of the fiscal year.
“Despite structural, political, and law-and-order problems, the government is able to achieve this growth rate,” Miftah said.
Responding to requests from the Islamic-banking sector, Ismail said he would create a post at the Ministry of Finance to exclusively deal with the Islamic-finance industry.
“I will soon convene a meeting of a committee for the implementation of the recommendations of the Steering Committee for Promotion of Islamic Banking in Pakistan”, he said.
He also pointed out that 12,000 megawatts had been added to the country’s electricity supply network after years of power shortfalls.
“Some of the problems are now things of past, including power deficit, as the government has added electricity, something that was not done during past 66 years of history of the country,” said Ismail.
As expected, he said there would be no new taxes introduced in the upcoming federal budget, saying the aim of government would be to “maximize growth, not to maximize revenue.”
The government will abolish three or four taxes based on “the good suggestions of stakeholders,” he revealed, adding that many taxes are not benefiting the government in terms of income, but are being used as a way to harass taxpayers.
Ismail described the overall health of economy as absolutely fine.
“The government is taking steps to curtail the current account deficits, which are expected to be tamed in the next year,” he said. “Imports are expected to slow down because of the machinery being imported for production purpose.”
Foreign-exchange reserves at the central bank will remain at $12.5 billion at the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2018).
Pakistan needs to achieve growth of eight to 10 percent to generate employment for young people, Ismail said, adding that the federal government is lacking the resources to spend much on development, forcing the government to borrow.
“Federal government gives 60 percent of resources to the provinces, and after paying pension and debt servicing the government starts with a deficit — that is why we are forced to borrow,” he said.
Ismail also stressed the need for the construction of dams, otherwise the country would face “water load shedding” — restrictions in the supply.
Earlier, Jameel Ahmed, the deputy governor of State Bank of Pakistan, stressed the importance of modernizing Islamic banking to help alleviate poverty.
“The Islamic banking industry needs to come up with modern financial products,” he said, calling for introduction of facilities based on modern financial technology.
Shaikh Ebrahim Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, chairman of the board of trustees of the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions, spoke about the progress of Islamic banking and standardizations being implemented globally to strengthen Islamic financing. Pakistan has the capability to play a leading role in the expansion of Islamic finance, he added.
The two-day World Islamic Finance Forum, which began on March 19 at the Movenpick Hotel in Karachi, is organized by IBA Center for Excellence in Islamic Finance, with the theme of “Expanding the Footprint of Islamic Finance: Innovation, Fintech and Regulations.”
The speakers include renowned local and international academics and leading industry figures, who have gathered to generate innovative ideas to stimulate the growth of Islamic Finance growth and overcome challenges.


Emotional Muslims return to Christchurch mosque as New Zealand works to move on

Updated 23 March 2019
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Emotional Muslims return to Christchurch mosque as New Zealand works to move on

  • Al Noor was handed back to the local Muslim community on Saturday and began allowing small groups onto its grounds around midday
  • “We are allowing 15 people at a time, just to get some normality,” said Saiyad Hassen, a volunteer at Al Noor

CHRISTCHURCH: Muslims held emotional prayers inside Christchurch’s main mosque on Saturday for the first time since a white supremacist massacred worshippers there, as New Zealand sought to return to normality after the tragedy.
The Al Noor mosque had been taken over by police for investigations and security reasons after alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant gunned down Muslims gathered there and at a smaller mosque for Friday prayers on March 15, killing 50 people.
Al Noor was handed back to the local Muslim community on Saturday and began allowing small groups onto its grounds around midday.
“We are allowing 15 people at a time, just to get some normality,” said Saiyad Hassen, a volunteer at Al Noor, adding that there were no plans yet to fully reopen.
Among the first to enter was massacre survivor Vohra Mohammad Huzef, who said two of his roommates were killed and that he managed to live only by hiding under bodies.
“I could feel the bullets hitting the people and I could feel the blood coming down on me from the people who were shot,” said Huzef, a Christchurch civil engineer originally from India.
“Everyone wants to get back in again to give praise and to catch up. This is the central point of our community.”
The attacks shocked a country of 4.5 million that is known for its tolerance and prompted global horror, heightened by Tarrant’s cold-blooded livestreaming of the massacre.
New Zealand came to a standstill on Friday to mark one week since the bloodshed, with the Muslim call to prayer broadcast across the country followed by two minutes of silence.
The ceremonies saw poignant scenes of Maoris performing the traditional haka war dance, and non-Muslim New Zealand women donning makeshift Islamic headscarves in solidarity.
A day earlier, the country outlawed the military-style rifles used in the assault with immediate effect.
But one of four concert sites at a music festival in the capital Wellington was evacuated on Saturday night just before a planned minute of silence for Christchurch, underlining lingering apprehensions.
Police cited unspecified “concerns about a person,” but later called it an “innocent misunderstanding” and the concert was slated to proceed.
In Christchurch, police also handed back Linwood Mosque, the second killing zone several kilometers away from Al Noor, but no plans to allow visitors were announced.
An armed police presence will remain at both mosques, as well as others around New Zealand.
Workers have rushed to repair the mosques’ bullet-pocked walls and clean blood-spattered floors.
At Al Noor, visitors knelt at a garden tap to wash their feet and faces in ritual pre-prayer ablutions.
Some wept quietly inside the mosque, where bright sunlight streamed through windows and the air smelled of fresh paint. No bullet holes were seen.
Men and women then knelt and prayed on a padded carpet underlay taped to the floor, still awaiting replacements for the mosque’s blood-stained rugs.
Several members of Christchurch semi-professional football club Western A.F.C. arrived in team colors to honor three victims who were known to the team due to their interest in the sport. The players left a bouquet of flowers outside the entrance to the mosque’s grounds.
The victims included 14-year-old Sayyad Milne, who dreamed of playing in goal for Manchester United, according to his father.
“We all love playing football and the best thing we can do is just to go out and enjoy it really, and obviously play for those guys that have been lost and think about them while we are doing it,” said team member Aaron McDonald, 20.
The mosque’s imam Gamal Fouda arrived draped in a New Zealand flag.
The day before, Fouda delivered an impassioned memorial service at a park next to the mosque that was watched globally and in which he praised “unbreakable” New Zealand for uniting in the tragedy’s wake.
Around 2,000 people gathered Saturday at the same park to join a “March for Love” procession through Christchurch.
Officials and police said two relatives of victims had died, with New Zealand identifying one as 65-year-old Suad Adwan, who had arrived from Jordan for the burial of her son Kamel Darwish, 38.
The grief-stricken mother was found Saturday morning having apparently died in her sleep, just hours after her son’s burial, of what police called a “medical event.”
No other details on the deaths were given.
But normality slowly returned to Christchurch as children played cricket near Al Noor and a previously scheduled 100-kilometer (62-mile) cycling race went ahead as planned.
New Zealand, which has already charged two people for distributing the gruesome livestreamed video of the attack, has now also made it a crime to share the alleged killer’s “manifesto,” local media reported.
In the document, Tarrant says the killings were in response to what he termed a Muslim “invasion” of Western countries.
“Others have referred to this publication as a ‘manifesto’, but I consider it a crude booklet that promotes murder and terrorism,” Chief Censor David Shanks was quoted as saying.