History of Islamic Banking in Pakistan

 

Islamization of banking and financial system of Pakistan were started in 1977-78. Pakistan was among the three countries in the world that had been trying to implement interest free banking at comprehensive/national level. But as it was a mammoth task, the switchover plan was implemented in phases. The Islamization measures included the elimination of interest from the operations of specialized financial institutions including HBFC, ICP and NIT in July 1979 and that of the commercial banks during January 1981 to June 1985. The legal framework of Pakistan’s financial and corporate system was amended on June 26, 1980 to permit issuance of a new interest-free instrument of corporate financing named Participation Term Certificate (PTC). An Ordinance was promulgated to allow the establishment of Mudaraba companies and floatation of Mudaraba certificates for raising risk based capital. Amendments were also made in the Banking Companies Ordinance, 1962 (The BCO, 1962) and related laws to include provision of bank finance through PLS, mark-up in prices, leasing and hire purchase.

Separate Interest-free counters started operating in all the nationalized commercial banks, and one foreign bank (Bank of Oman) on January 1, 1981 to mobilize deposits on profit and loss sharing basis. Regarding investment of these funds, bankers were instructed to provide financial accommodation for Government commodity operations on the basis of sale on deferred payment with a mark-up on purchase price. Export bills were to be accommodated on exchange rate differential basis. In March, 1981 financing of import and inland bills and that of the then Rice Export Corporation of Pakistan, Cotton Export Corporation and the Trading Corporation of Pakistan were shifted to mark-up basis. Simultaneously, necessary amendments were made in the related laws permitting the State Bank to provide finance against Participation Term Certificates and also extend advances against promissory notes supported by PTCs and Mudaraba Certificates. From July 1, 1982 banks were allowed to provide finance for meeting the working capital needs of trade and industry on a selective basis under the technique of Musharaka.

As from April 1, 1985 all finances to all entities including individuals began to be made in one of the specified interest-free modes. From July 1, 1985, all commercial banking in Pak Rupees was made interest-free. From that date, no bank in Pakistan was allowed to accept any interest-bearing deposits and all existing deposits in a bank were treated to be on the basis of profit and loss sharing. Deposits in current accounts continued to be accepted but no interest or share in profit or loss was allowed to these accounts. However, foreign currency deposits in Pakistan and on-lending of foreign loans continued as before. The State Bank of Pakistan had specified 12 modes of non-interest financing classified in three broad categories. However, in any particular case, the mode of financing to be adopted was left to the mutual option of the banks and their clients.

The procedure adopted by banks in Pakistan since July 1 1985, based largely on ‘mark-up’ technique with or without ‘buy-back arrangement’, was, however, declared un-Islamic by the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) in November 1991. However, appeals were made in the Shariat Appellate Bench (SAB) of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The SAB delivered its judgment on December 23, 1999 rejecting the appeals and directing that laws involving interest would cease to have effect finally by June 30, 2001. In the judgment, the Court concluded that the present financial system had to be subjected to radical changes to bring it into conformity with the Shariah. It also directed the Government to set up, within specified time frame, a Commission for Transformation of the financial system and two Task Forces to plan and implement the process of the transformation.

The Commission for Transformation of Financial System (CTFS) was constituted in January 2000 in the State Bank of Pakistan under the Chairmanship of Mr. I.A. Hanfi, a former Governor State Bank of Pakistan. A Task Force was set up in the Ministry of Finance to suggest the ways to eliminate interest from Government financial transactions. Another Task Force was set up in the Ministry of Law to suggest amendments in legal framework to implement the Court’s Judgment. The CTFS constituted a Committee for Development of Financial Instruments and Standardized Documents in the State Bank to prepare model agreements and financial instruments for new system.

The CTFS in its Report identified a number of prior actions, which were needed to be taken to prepare the ground for transformation of the financial system. It also identified major Shariah compliant modes of financing, their essentials, draft seminal law captioned ‘Islamization of Financial Transactions Ordinance, 2001’, model agreements for major modes of financing, and guidelines for conversion of products and services of banks and financial institutions. The Commission also dealt with major products of banks and financial institutions, both for assets and liabilities side, like letters of credit or guarantee, bills of exchange, term finance certificates (TFCs), State Bank’s Refinance Schemes, Credit Cards, Interbank transactions, underwriting, foreign currency forward cover and various kinds of bank accounts. The Commission observed that all deposits, except current accounts, would be accepted on Mudaraba principle. Current accounts would not carry any return and the banks would be at liberty to levy service charge as fee for their handling. The Commission also approved the concept of Daily Product and Weightage System for distribution of profit among various kinds of liabilities/deposits. The Report also contained recommendation for forestalling willful default and safeguarding interest of the banks, depositors and the clients.

According to the Commission, prior/preparatory works for introduction of Shariah compliant financial system briefly included creating legal infrastructure conducive for working of Islamic financial system, launching a massive education and training program for bankers and their clients and an effective campaign through media for the general public to create awareness about the Islamic financial system.

The Finance Minister of Pakistan in his budget speech for the FY02 declared the following:
” Government is committed to eliminate Riba and promote Islamic banking in the country. For this purpose a number of steps are under way which are:

1. A legal framework is designed to encourage practice of Islamic banking by banks and financial institutions as subsidiary operations of their main operations;

2. Consultations and exchanges are undertaken with brother Islamic countries and renowned institutions of Islamic learning such as middle eastern countries and Al-Azhar University of Egypt, to learn more about their experiences and practices;

3. Amendments in HBFC Act are being made in line with the directive of the Supreme Court. With these changes, HBFC would be fully Shariah compliant institution, which will play an effective role both in promotion of Islamic financing method but also in the development of the important housing sector;

4. Shariah compliant modes of financing like Musharaka and Mudaraba will be encouraged so that familiarity and use of such products is enhanced and their adoption at a wider scale made possible.
It is government’s intention to promote Islamic banking in the country while keeping in view its linkages with the global economy and existing commitments to local and foreign investors”.

The House Building Finance Corporation had shifted its rent sharing operations to interest based system in 1989. The Task Force of the M/O Law proposed amendments in the HBFC Act to make it Shariah Compliant. Having vetted by the CTFS, the amended law has been promulgated by the Government. Accordingly, the HBFC launched in 2001 Asaan Ghar Scheme in the light of amended Ordinance based on the Diminishing Musharakah concept. A Committee was constituted in the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Pakistan (ICAP), wherein the SBP was also represented, for development of accounting and auditing standards for Islamic modes of financing. The Committee is reviewing the standards prepared by the Bahrain based Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) with a view to adapt them to our circumstances and if considered necessary, to propose new accounting standards.

It was decided in September 2001 that the shift to interest free economy would be made in a gradual and phased manner and without causing any disruptions. It was also agreed that State Bank of Pakistan would consider for:

1. Setting up subsidiaries by the commercial banks for the purpose of conducting Shariah compliant transactions;
2. Specifying branches by the commercial banks exclusively dealing in Islamic products, and
3. Setting up new full-fledged commercial banks to carry out exclusively banking business based on proposed Islamic products.

Accordingly, the State Bank issued detailed criteria in December 2001 for establishment of full-fledged Islamic commercial banks in the private sector. Al Meezan Investment Bank received the first Islamic commercial banking license from SBP in January 2002 and the Meezan Bank Limited (MBL) commenced full-fledged commercial banking operation from March 20, 2002. Further, all formalities relating to the acquisition of Societe Generale, Pakistan by the MBL were completed, and by June, 2002 it had a network of 5 branches all over the country, three in Karachi, one in Islamabad and one in Lahore. The MBL now maintains a long term rating of A+ and short term rating of A1+, assessed by JCR VIS Credit Rating Co Ltd, signifying a consistent satisfactory performance.

The Government as also the State Bank are mainly concerned with stability and efficiency of the banking system and safeguarding the interests, particularly, of small depositors. With this concern in mind it has been decided to operate Islamic banking side by side with traditional banking. The approach is to institute best practice legal, regulatory and accounting frameworks to support Islamic banks and investors alike. The year 2002-2003 witnessed strengthening measures taken in the areas of banking, non-bank financial companies and the capital markets.
source : sbp

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