Bold decision on Riba

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THE Federal Government has announced a move to introduce an interest-free banking system in Pakistan and withdraw within the next few days two review appeals from the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the Federal Shariat Court verdict on usury.

This was stated on Wednesday by Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who announced withdrawal of two review petitions filed by the State Bank of Pakistan and National Bank of Pakistan against the judgment of Federal Shariat Court to transform Pakistan’s economic and financial system as Riba-free in five years.

This is, indeed, a bold decision and Dar’s name would go down in the history as the one who took practical measures to transform the economy as per spirit of the Shariah if he succeeds in his plan he has announced for the purpose.

The Federal Shariat Court (FSC), in its decision in April, declared that the prohibition of Riba (interest) was absolute in all its forms and manifestations according to the injunctions of Islam and in accordance with the Holy Quran and Sunnah, ordering the authorities to eliminate the Riba in five years.

Though the Government immediately announced to comply with the verdict of the FSC, two banks – the State Bank of Pakistan and the National Bank of Pakistan – filed appeals against the judgement and there were legitimate concerns and demands for their withdrawal.

Therefore, the decision to withdraw petitions is, in a way, an expression of the firm resolve of the Government not to take refuge behind lame excuses and instead start taking measures towards the cherished goal of a Riba-free economy.

Mr.Dar sounds practical when he says there were challenges for moving towards a Riba-free system as it could not be done in one day but they would move towards a Shariah-compliant system with increased pace compared to the past.

Of course, in a complex domestic and international environment, it is challenging for the authorities concerned to move towards total elimination of Riba from the system but it has to be done as we cannot afford to commit continued violations of clear-cut injunctions of Islam on the matter.

It is not an impossibility as Islamic banking is at a relatively advanced stage in Pakistan and a model for the entire system can be built through in-depth analyses and discussions among experts and the relevant officials.

We hope that the Government would move beyond verbal assurances and set up a special cell at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, which should draw a roadmap in consultation with the State Bank of Pakistan, other banks and economic ministries and relevant institutions for completion of the whole exercise strictly within five years as stipulated by the FSC.

 

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