ANALYSIS: Pakistan’s new government unlikely to improve ties with Kabul

In this photo released by the National Assembly, the leader of Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf party Imran Khan, speaks at the National Assembly in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. (AP)
Updated 19 August 2018
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ANALYSIS: Pakistan’s new government unlikely to improve ties with Kabul

  • Analysts says Ghani’s politically and ethnically divided government has neither the ability nor the options to reduce the new wave of tension and mistrust between the two countries
  • Pakistan may resort to putting further pressure on Kabul until a new Afghan government is in place, say experts

KABUL: When Imran Khan won Pakistan’s elections last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was one of the first leaders to congratulate him. Ghani issued an official invitation to Khan to visit Kabul in an effort to start a new chapter in the historically uneasy relations between the two neighbors.
The sense of optimism in Kabul followed Khan’s pledge in his victory speech that he wanted a EU-style soft border with Afghanistan despite the fact that he had struck a pro-Taliban stance in the past.
Less than a month on, that sense of optimism seems to have faded following events on the battlefield, particularly a major assault by the Taliban on the city of Ghazni last week.
Local officials allege that Pakistan assisted the Taliban in Ghazni, and Ghani subsequently stated that Taliban soldiers wounded in the attack had been taken to Pakistan for treatment.  All of which reduces the odds of any improvement in relations in the near future.
Analysts have suggested that Ghani’s politically and ethnically divided government, which has suffered a number of successive losses in battle, has neither the ability nor the options to reduce the new wave of tension and mistrust between the two countries.
They predict that, instead, Pakistan may resort to putting further pressure on Kabul until a new Afghan government is in place. Presidential elections are currently slated for April.
“I do not think that these challenges and tensions will decrease until a new government comes to power here,” Ahmad Saeedi, an analyst who served as a diplomat in Pakistan told Arab News. “There will be even tougher times ahead, with militants possibly targeting more major cities and even Kabul.”
Saeedi said that recent talks between the Taliban and US officials may further embolden the Taliban to step up their attacks so they can speak from a position of strength in future talks, something he said Islamabad wants in order to balance India’s growing influence in Afghanistan.
He added that Washington and NATO — both of whom have troops in Afghanistan — may only want to prevent the total collapse of Ghani’s government, but that they do not seem to trust “the government’s weak leadership to have the ability to govern.”
Waheed Mozdah, another analyst, said Afghan officials have no strong evidence to prove Pakistan’s involvement in the Taliban’s victory in Ghazni, which has struck another major blow to Ghani’s administration.
He pointed out, too, that Ghani’s allegations are unlikely to help improve relations with Pakistan. “After Ghani’s allegations, I do not think Imran Khan even will visit Afghanistan,” he said. “Ghani’s comments are not helpful at all. He seems to have turned the new government in Pakistan against him.”
When contacted by Arab News, government spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazawi said Kabul expected these problems to be solved, but did not elaborate on the government’s plans to do so.
During a recent visit to Ghazni, Ghani accused Khan of not honoring his pledge as an ethnic Pashtun and directed the same charge at Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa.
“Imran Khan, you are the son of Pashtun parents. Investigate this and give me an answer. Gen. Bajwa, you have repeatedly given me assurances over phone calls that special attention would be given to the issue of peace in Afghanistan once elections took place in Pakistan. Now give me an answer,” Ghani said, while addressing a group of tribal elders attending the jirga on Friday.


Philippine Congress moves a step closer to expanding Islamic banking

The Central Bank shall exercise regulatory powers and supervision over the operations of Islamic banks. (Reuters)
Updated 55 min 58 sec ago
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Philippine Congress moves a step closer to expanding Islamic banking

  • Establishment of more Islamic banks in Southeast Asia and the Middle East will benefit more than 10 million Filipino Muslims
  • The Central Bank will exercise regulatory powers and supervision over the operations of Islamic banks

MANILA: The Philippines has moved a step closer to opening the country to the wide range of banking and other financial services available through Islamic banking and finance.
The move comes after the House of Representatives recently approved on second reading a proposed bill providing for the regulation and organization of Islamic banks in the Philippines.
In an emailed statement to Arab News, Congressman Henry Ong said the “eventual enactment of the (proposed) law would be one of the historic moments in Philippine banking history.”
The country’s first Islamic bank, according to the lawmaker, was created in 1972.
“With this imminent new law, there will be more Islamic banks not just for Mindanao but also for the rest of the country,” said Ong, who is chairman of the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries.
Parallel to this bill’s movement through Congress, the Philippine Stock Exchange has its Shariah index of stocks on the PSE where some 60 securities are listed.
Ong noted that the establishment of more Islamic banks, especially those based here in Southeast Asia and in the Middle East, will greatly benefit the 10 million-plus Filipino Muslims, many of whom are “unbanked.”
He pointed out that this is so as the proposed measure will make available particularly to Filipino Muslims, “a vast array of banking, lending, and investment products and services.
“Mindanao’s economy will reap great harvests because of this bill. Filipino Muslims in the Middle East and Southeast Asia would most likely be able to send more remittances to their families and friends. Businesses in Mindanao will have more financing options to grow,” Ong said.
“Upgrading and expanding Islamic banking and finance will help stimulate economic growth in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, as well as in Filipino-Muslim communities in Metro Manila and other urban areas nationwide,” Ong continued.
The lawmaker likewise emphasized said that aside from providing the people of Mindanao more banking options, Arab investors and bankers will have more reasons to participate in the growth of the Philippine economy.
“More Islamic banks means more direct investments, including investments by international Islamic banks especially those here in ASEAN, the Middle East, and even Africa,” he said.
Under the proposed bill, Islamic banking business refers to banking business with objectives and operations that do not involve interest (riba) which is prohibited by the Shari’ah and which conducts its business transactions in accordance with Shariah principles.
Section 3 of the bill also provides that the Central Bank’s Monetary Board may authorize the establishment of Islamic banks. It may also authorize conventional banks to engage in Islamic banking arrangements, including structures and transactions, through a designated Islamic banking unit within the bank.
Under prescribed rules and regulations, it may also authorize foreign Islamic banks to establish banking operations in the Philippines under any of the modes of entry provided under Republic Act No. 7721, as amended, otherwise known as “The Liberalizing of Entry and Operations of Foreign Banks in the Philippines.”
The Monetary Board may regulate the number of participants in the Islamic banking system, taking into account the requirements of the economy, the preservation of the stability of the system, and the maintenance of healthy competition.
The Central Bank shall exercise regulatory powers and supervision over the operations of Islamic banks.
The bill further mandates that Islamic banks shall be responsible in ensuring compliance with Shari-an principles. For this purpose, it shall constitute a Shariah advisory council composed of people who have knowledge or experience in Shariah and in banking, finance, and law.