Pakistan to tap into digital currency potential by 2025

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Bitcoin (virtual currency) coins placed on Dollar banknotes are seen in this illustration picture, November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
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EMIs are non-bank entities that will be licensed by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to issue e-Money for the purpose of digital payments. (Shutterstock)
Updated 03 April 2019

Pakistan to tap into digital currency potential by 2025

  • Move to address cybersecurity threats faced by institutions, FM Umar says
  • Launch of e-Money regulations a key landmark in FinTech space, analysts add

KARACHI: As the country surges ahead with a financial technology (FinTech) revolution, Pakistan’s central bank said on Monday that it has launched laws for Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) as a step toward issuing digital currency by 2025.
The regulations – which have been designed with the help of the World Bank — will also seek to cover other requirements such as outsourcing activities, anti-money laundering and counter-terror financing measures, consumer protection, complaint handling mechanism, oversight and regulatory reporting.
EMIs are non-bank entities that will be licensed by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to issue e-Money for the purpose of digital payments.
On Monday, Finance Minister Asad Umar stressed on the need to safeguard financial institutions as “cybersecurity was a growing threat” and termed the launch of the electronic money institutions as a game changer in promoting e-Commerce and a digital economy in the country.
“This new category of institutions will complement the efforts of the government in creating an enabling environment to empower stakeholders in trade and commerce. This will help businesses in improving their productivity and contribute toward positioning the nation for global competition,” he said.
Officials from the SBP concurred. “These landmark regulations are a testament of the SBP’s commitment toward openness, adoption of technology and digitization of our financial system,” Jameel Ahmad, Deputy Governor of SBP, said, adding that the SBP is transforming itself into a modern, digital and technology-oriented bank. 
He said that the SBP is working on issuing digital currency by 2025, with the aim to promote financial inclusion and reduce corruption, and inefficiency. 
“Our currency will remain the same, but as opposed to existing online payment services — where there is the backing of any financial institution — there will be not [be any] financial institution which we are going to bring in,” Abid Qamar, spokesman of the SBP said dispelling the impression that the central bank was going to issue a cryptocurrency. 
Financial experts lauded the initiative as a “landmark in FinTech space”, terming it as the most progressive measure taken by the SBP in years. 
“The launch of e-Money regulations…is a key landmark in our FinTech space. This way, Fintechs have been empowered to open and manage accounts themselves. This day is going to mark the inflection point for digital payments in Pakistan. We need this sort of speed and regulatory environment to set the ground for our FinTechs to flourish,” Khurram Schehzad, a senior financial analyst and CEO of Alpha Beta Core — a financial advisory firm, said. 
Meanwhile, experts said that the initiative will place Pakistan among the few nations in the world who have adopted e-Money mechanisms. “This initiative is capital intensive and would help Pakistan achieve financial inclusion, especially in the rural sector of the country,” S. M. Arif, a financial and banking technologist, told Arab News.
He added that it would also help small and medium enterprises, the farming community, and rural dwellers gain access to financial instruments. “By enabling this regulations authorities have enabled wider base of population whether Urban or Rural, to have access to finance through these new digital mode of payments from verity of players. This will require proper and frequent education of masses from issuers to make good use of such facilities and safety of these instruments” he said, before quickly adding that “the business model must be made keeping in view the local market requirements and security threats as copy pasting a foreign model may backfire”.

Hundreds of Pakistanis stranded in Saudi Arabia return home on special flight

Updated 02 June 2020

Hundreds of Pakistanis stranded in Saudi Arabia return home on special flight

  • This was the eighth PIA special flight to bring Pakistani nationals back from the Kingdom
  • Earlier, over 15,000 Pakistani Umrah pilgrims were brought home on special flights 

ISLAMABAD: A repatriation flight with 251 stranded Pakistanis on board departed for Karachi from Jeddah, the Consulate General of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia said in a statement on Sunday.
This was the eighth special flight of the national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), from Jeddah following the coronavirus related suspension of routine international flight operations in the Kingdom on March 15.
“Consul General Khalid Majid and Deputy Consul General Shaiq Ahmed Bhutto were present at Jeddah International Airport to bid farewell to the passengers,” the statement said.

“A total of around 1,700 Pakistanis have so far been repatriated from Jeddah region through seven special flights,” the statement added, and said similar special PIA flights were also being operated from Riyadh region.

Consul General Khalid Majid Bhutto bids farewell to Pakistani nationals departing from Jeddah on a special repatriation flight to Karachi on May 31, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Consulate General in Jeddah)

“Embassy of Pakistan at Riyadh and the Consulate General at Jeddah in close cooperation of PIA, are coordinating arrangements of these special flights in their respective jurisdictions.”

Saudi Arabia halted all international travel and suspended Umrah pilgrimage in response to the pandemic in March this year.

Over the months, Pakistan has brought back over 15,000 of its nationals who had gone to Saudi Arabia for Umrah but found themselves stranded amid coronavirus lockdowns in the Kingdom.