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.


Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

Updated 26 May 2019
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Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

  • Only the Afghans ‘can decide upon the future of their country’

KABUL, BERLIN: Germany, a leading donor and member of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, has been talking with the Taliban and the Afghan government in an effort to restart peace talks to end 18 years of conflict, officials said.

While the Taliban have been talking with US officials since October about withdrawal of international troops, they have so far refused formal talks with the Western-backed government, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.

Berlin’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Markus Potzel, has visited Kabul for talks with the Afghan government and met Taliban officials in Doha at least twice this month.

“The current chance for a process toward a more peaceful Afghanistan should not be missed. If the friends of Afghanistan — and Germany is one of them — together can help in this effort, then we should do it,” Potzel said.

“In the end, only the Afghans themselves, including the Taliban, can decide upon the future of their country.”

The chief US negotiator in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in March said that a draft agreement had been reached on a withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.

But there has been no agreement yet on a cease-fire or a start to talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, both seen as key conditions for a settlement.

An Afghan delegation had been due to meet Taliban officials in the Qatari capital Doha last month to build the basis for possible negotiations, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute after a dispute over the number of participants.

FASTFACT

 

● At least 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war last year. ● 14,000 US troops are still stationed in Afghanistan.

“We realize that US-Taliban talks will gain momentum only if the insurgent leaders start engaging with the Afghan representatives,” a senior German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said that Germany was one among several countries to have offered help to seek a peaceful resolution. 

The EU and Indonesia are among those to have offered help, another Taliban official said, declining to be named.

Discussions were held with Germany about an Afghan-Taliban meeting in Germany but no decision has been made, Shaheen told Reuters.

 

Captives subjected to abuse

Afghan captives held by the Taliban have been subjected to abuse, ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture, the UN said on Sunday.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it interviewed 13 detainees from a group of 53 recently rescued from the Taliban, mainly members of Afghan forces but also civilians and government officials captured by the insurgents.

The group was freed on April 25 when Afghan troops raided a Taliban-run detention facility in the Khas Uruzgan district in southern Uruzgan province.

Most of the captives were held since 2018, with three since 2016, the UNAMA statement said, adding they were kept in poor conditions and subjected to forced labor. It cites the detainees as saying that the Taliban killed some of their captives.

“I am gravely concerned about these serious allegations of ill-treatment, torture and unlawful killing of civilians and security personnel, as well as the deplorable conditions of detention,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of UNAMA.

The detainees were shackled while in captivity and almost all said they were beaten. The Taliban told them it was punishment for supporting the government, working with the Americans or fighting the insurgents.