Developments of Islamic Banking in Pakistan & Malaysia


An Analytical Review



This study compares Islamic banking operations currently practiced in Pakistan and Malaysia. Both countries started Islamic banking in early 1980’s but employed entirely different approaches. Pakistan attempted to convert the entire financial system in accordance with Islamic law at once at national level. Malaysia adopted the gradual application approach. It allowed Islamic and conventional banking systems to operate and to compete for deposits on parallel basis. This study examines the Pakistani and Malaysian approaches towards the implementation of Islamic banking in their respective countries. It recognizes lack of commitment and long term planning problems in case of Pakistan.  


Islamic banking system has emerged as a competitive and a viable substitute for the conventional banking system during the last three decades. It is especially true for Muslim world where presently Islamic banking strides at two separate fronts. At one side, efforts are also underway to covert the entire financial systems in accordance to Islamic laws (Shariah). At the other side, separate Islamic banks are allowed to operate in parallel to conventional interest based banks. Pakistan and Malaysia are the two good examples of above mentioned approaches.

Both countries adopted different tracks for the same ultimate destination of developing full fledge viable Islamic financial system and produced quite interesting results. The Government of Pakistan tried to covert the entire financial system to an interest free system through presidential orders at a national level. However, the overnight practice of islamization didn’t achieve the required success. Most of the efforts have either been reversed or further developments have been stopped. Malaysia opted for the alternative gradual way of developing and implementing Islamic banking system. Starting with one Islamic bank it later allowed conventional financial institutions to offer and participate in Islamic banking products and services through their existing staff and branches. The country is now actively involved in designing new Islamic financial instruments for capital and money market transactions. This study provides the comparative analysis of implementing two opposite Islamic banking approaches, one in Pakistan and other in Malaysia along with their acquired results.


Origin of Islamic banking in Pakistan


The process of islamization the financial system of Pakistan is coincided with the globally resurgence of Islamic banking in the late seventies. Pakistan was among the three countries in the world that has been trying to implement Islamic banking at national level. This process started with presidential order to the local Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) on September 29, 1977. The council was asked to prepare the blueprint of interest free economic system. The council included panelists of bankers and economists who submitted their report in February 1980, highlighting various ways and sufficient details for eliminating the interest from the financial system of Pakistan. This report was a landmark in the efforts for Islamizing the banking system in Pakistan.


Origin of Islamic banking in Malaysia


In Malaysia, the roots of Islamic banking go back to 1963 when the government established Tabung Haji or Pilgrims Management and Fund Board. The institution was established to invest the savings of the local Muslims in interest free places, who intend to perform pilgrim (Hajj). Tabung Haji utilizes Mudarabah1 (profit and loss sharing), Musharikah2 (joint venture) and Ijara3 (leasing) modes of financing for investment under the guidance of National Fatawah Committee of Malaysia.

The first call for separate Islamic bank was made in 1980, in a seminar held in the National University of Malaysia. The participants passed a resolution requesting the government to pass a special law to setup an Islamic bank in the country. Responding to the request, the government set up a National Steering Committee in 1981 to study legal, religious and operational aspects of setting up an Islamic bank. The committee established the blue print of a modern Islamic banking system in 1983, which later enabled the government to establish an Islamic bank and to issue non-interest bearing investment certificates.


Initiatives Taken in Pakistan


The Islamic banking movement in Pakistan was a nationwide and comprehensive. As it was a mammoth task, the switch-over plan was implemented in phases. The process was started by transforming the operations of specialized financial institutions like National Investment Trust (NIT), Investment Corporation of Pakistan (ICP), and House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC) to the system conforming to the Islamic principles with effect from July 1, 1979. Separate Interest-free counters started operating in all the nationalized commercial banks, and one foreign bank from January 1, 1981, to mobilize deposits on profit and loss sharing basis. As from July 1, 1985, all commercial banking operations were made ‘interest-free’. From that date, no bank in Pakistan, including foreign banks, was allowed to accept any interest-bearing deposits. All existing deposits in banks were treated to be on the basis of profit and loss sharing. However, foreign currency deposits/loans were continued to govern on interest basis. The government meanwhile also passed Mudarabah Companies Act 1984, enabled financial institutions or business groups to setup special Mudaraba Companies in a country.


Initiative Taken in Malaysia


The establishment of Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad (BIMB) in July 1983 marked a milestone for the development of the Islamic financial system in Malaysia. BIMB carries out banking business similar to other commercial banks, but along the principles of Islamic laws (Shariah). The bank offers deposit-taking products such as current and savings deposit under the concept of Wadiah (guaranteed custody) and investment deposits under the concept of Mudarabah (profit-sharing). The bank grants finance facilities such as working capital financing under Murabaha4 (cost-plus financing), house financing under Bai’ Bithaman Ajil (deferred payment sale), leasing under Ijara (leasing) and project financing under Musharikah (joint venture). BIMB has grown tremendously since its inception. It was listed on the Main Board of the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange on 17 January 1992. At the end of 2003, the bank has a network of 82 branches throughout the country and staff of 1,200 employees.


Development of Islamic banking in Pakistan


The change management with regard to the introduction of new system is always a sophisticated job requiring long term planning and commitments. This is particularly true in case of present day financial system wherein the interests of the stakeholders are embedded and considered important ingredient. Only a well thought out plan with committed and continue efforts could lead to success. Unfortunately the economics managers in Pakistan lost the desired path of success. Currently, there is hardly any transaction deal in inter-banks5, intara-banks6 or the government related financial activities7 which can be called as Islamic. In the beginning of islamization process the banks expressed some anxiety to adjust them to the new system and tried to develop methods to eliminate the interest form their transactions. But the issuance of BCD circular No.13 of June 1984 allowed banks to provide finance on mark-up and on buy-back agreement basis. The technique of buy-back agreements are nothing but disguised forms of interest. With the help of new terminology the financial institutes retained the conventional methods of interest bearing finance. The Islamic modes of finances such as musharikah, mudarabah, ijara, ijara wa iktina, were not adopted in majority of the cases. The aggressively established Mudaraba Companies also failed to continue their existence; most of them are either in losses or are in the process of agglomerated with other financial institutions.

The present day financial system is largely based on ‘mark-up’ technique with or without buy-back arrangement. This procedure was, however, declared un-Islamic by the Federal Shariat Court in November 1991. Appeals were made to the Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (the apex court). The Supreme Court 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 Islamic laws (Shariah). It also directed the government to set up, within specified time frame, a commission and task forces for the transformation of financial system, to achieve the objective. The Court also indicated some measures related to the infrastructure and legal framework, which needed to be taken in order to have an economy conforming to the injunctions of Islam.

The Commission for Transformation of Financial System (CTFS) set-up in the State Bank of Pakistan submitted its report in August 2001 that mainly comprised the recommendation given in the two Interim reports submitted earlier in October 2000 and May 2001. Currently, a task force is working in the Ministry of Finance to suggest the ways to eliminate interest from government operations. Another task force has been set-up in the Ministry of Law to suggest amendments in legal framework to implement the Supreme Court’s Judgment.


Development of Islamic banking in Malaysia


The long-term objective of the Central Bank of Malaysia was to create an Islamic banking system operate parallel to the conventional banking system. A single Islamic bank (BIMB) did not represent the whole financial system. It required large number of pro-active players, wide range of products and innovative instruments, and a vibrant Islamic money market. Realizing the situation, the Central Bank introduced Interest Free Banking Scheme (now replaced with Islamic banking scheme (IBS) in March 1993. The scheme allowed conventional banking institutions to offer Islamic banking products and services using their existing infrastructure, including staff and branches. Since then, the numbers of IBS banking institutions have increased to 36 till the end of 2003, comprising 14 commercial banks (of which 4 are foreign banks), 10 finance companies, 5 merchant banks and 7 discount houses. The Central bank of Malaysia in its annual report (1993, page no 57) stated:

With the implementation of the interest free banking scheme, Malaysia has emerged as the first country to implement a dual banking system, whereby an Islamic banking system functions on a parallel basis with the conventional banking system”.

The aspiration to establish a comprehensive Islamic financial system has created a spill-over effect to the non-bank Islamic financial intermediaries which also started to offer Islamic financial products and services under Islamic banking scheme. Such institutions include the Takaful Companies, the savings institutions (i.e. Bank Simpanan Nasional & Bank Rakyat) and the developmental financial institutions (i.e. Bank Pembangunan dan Infrastruktur Malaysia and Bank Pertanian.

In October 1996, the Central Bank issued a model financial statement for the IBS banks requiring them to disclose their Islamic banking operations (balance sheet and profit and loss account) as an additional item under the Notes to the Accounts. The Central Bank also setup a National Shariah Advisory Council on Islamic Banking and Takaful (NSAC) on 1 May 1997. The council considers as the highest Shariah authority on Islamic banking and Takaful businesses in Malaysia. On 1 October 1999, the Central Bank issued license for second Islamic bank, Bank Muamalat Malaysia Berhad.

The country also introduced Islamic debt securities market has made its debut in 1990 with the issuance of RM 125 million Islamic bonds. Islamic Inter-bank Money Market (IIMM) on 4 January 1994 to link institutions and Islamic investment based instruments. Since then, both the markets provide variety of securities ranging from two to five years medium terms Islamic bonds to short-term commercial papers one to twelve months.


Present scenario of Present scenario of Islamic Banking System in Pakistan


Pakistan after the gap of twenty years has now decided to shift towards interest free economy in a gradual and phased manner without causing any further disruptions8. Some extracts from the affidavit submitted by the Deputy Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in the Supreme Court of Pakistan reflected the future policy of the Bank for the time being.

That having taken a series of steps to promote Islamic banking………. and considering all other practical problems associated with the complete transformation of the financial system, discussed herein, it is State Bank of Pakistan’s considered judgment that the parallel approach will be in the best interest of the country. This means that Islamic banking is introduced as a parallel system, of which beginning has already been made; it is provided a level playing field vis-à-vis the existing conventional banks, and its further growth and development is supported by Government and State Bank of Pakistan through appropriate actions. The approach will eliminate the risk of any major cost/damage to the economy, give a fair chance to Islamic banks to develop alongside the conventional banks, and will provide a choice to the people of Pakistan, and the foreigners doing businesses in/with Pakistan, to use either of the two systems”9.

State Bank of Pakistan issued detailed criteria in December 2001 for the establishment of full-fledged Islamic commercial banks in the private sector. Newly established Islamic bank can be listed on the stock exchange provided minimum of 50 percent of total shares must be offered to the general public. At least 15 percent of total paid-up capital should be subscribed personally by sponsor directors. Islamic bank are also required to maintain a minimum capital adequacy ratio of 8 percent based on risk weighted assets. Meezan Bank Limited (MBL) received the first Islamic commercial banking license from SBP in January 2002. At the end of 2003, MBL has a small net-work of 10 branches with total deposits of US $ 130 million.

In January, 2003 the State Bank issued detail instructions upon setting up subsidiaries and stand-alone Islamic banking branches by existing commercial banks. Accordingly six existing commercial banks including one foreign bank are allowed to open separate Islamic banking branches. Out of which eight branches of four banks have already started their operations since June 2004. Islamic banks are also allowed to maintain statutory liquidity requirements (SLR) and special cash reserve (SCR) deposits in current account with the State Bank to the maximum extent of 40% of SLR and SCR for other banks in order to avoid interest.

Some developments have also been witnessed in the capital market with regard to Islamization. During the last few years, numbers of companies have issued Term Finance Certificates (TFC) to raise redeemable capital on the basis of Musharika. The payments of profit of or sharing of loss with the TFC holders are linked to the operating profit/loss of the TFC issuing companies. Therefore, the investors assume the risk of sustaining losses proportionate to their principal amount in case of operating losses incurred by the company. In September 2002, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) also allowed the Mudaraba companies to float Musharikah based TFC’s.

Another significant development during the year 2003 is the permission to set up ‘SME Modaraba’ with the participation of about 20 Modarabah companies to undertake SME businesses in the smaller towns and distant areas. SME Modaraba will resolve the problem of the individual Modarabah companies which do not have a big branch network to reach out to the prospective clientele.


Present scenario of Present scenario of Islamic Banking System in Malaysia


Today, Malaysia has a full-fledged Islamic financial system operating parallel to conventional financial system. In terms of products and services, there are more than 40 different Islamic financial products currently available in a country. However, differentiating fixed assets and overhead expenses are problematic in case of IBS banks. Usually, an IBS bank consists of a team overseeing Islamic banking transactions. Product development, marketing and other policy issues are conducted at the respective headquarters. At the branch level, there is no delineation over Islamic and conventional transactions. Each branch officer is expected to deal with both systems. Islamic and conventional transactions share the share computers and automated teller machines (ATMs) facilities. To some extent, overhead expenses on wages/salaries, office equipment and furniture etc. can be accounted for at the bank’s headquarter, but not at the branch level. The same applies to security systems, land and office premises as these cannot be divided into the Islamic and conventional individual components (Rosley, 2003).

Overall Islamic banking industry in Malaysia has continued to register strong expansion during 2003 to account for 9.7% of the total assets of the banking system (8.9% in 2002), 10.4% of total deposits (10.2% in 2002) and 10.3% of total financing (8.1% in 2002). The improved performance was characterized by strong growth in financing activities for the purchase of transport vehicles and residential property.

The thrust of Islamic financial policy in 2004 will continue to be directed at further strengthening the fundamental essential for progressive Islamic banking industry. The Central Bank is focusing on strengthening the institutional infrastructure, enhancing the regulatory framework, strengthening the Shariah and legal infrastructure as well as enhancing intellectual capital development and consumer education. In 2003, the Central Bank of Malaysia brought forward liberalization in Islamic banking to allow three full-fledged foreign Islamic banks to be set-up in Malaysia.




Islamic banking has proved vital potential as a competitive and better substitute against conventional banking system in many countries of the world. Currently, two different approaches are experienced towards the development of Islamic banking. First way experienced by Pakistan, Iran and Sudan is to implement Islamic banking on a country wide and on a comprehensive basis. Second, way is to setup individual Islamic banks in parallel to the conventional interest based banks. Pakistan and Malaysia can be assumed as the two leaders of Islamic Finance. Both countries selected different tracks to achieve the same goals of developing full fledge Islamic banking but gained different results.

The Governments of Pakistan has tried to employ Islamic banking system at once at national level. The overnight exercise of islamization didn’t produce the required results due to lack of required support and continue efforts to eliminate the interest (Riba) from the economy. Most of the Islamization efforts either had been reversed or at least, further progress was stopped. Since 2001, the Central Bank of Pakistan has started adopting the gradual policies of implementing Islamic banking which Malaysia has adopted twenty years back. Al-Meezan Bank in Pakistan (fully Islamic and independent commercial bank) and full fledge separate Islamic banking branches from few commercial banks are healthy indicators for positive expectations.

Malaysia employed the gradual approach of implementing Islamic banking. Although, the country is facing problems in segregating Islamic and conventional banking fixed assets and overheads expenses but, no doubt, it has successfully developed viable Islamic financial system. After developing Islamic banking infrastructure and Islamic instruments for financial investments and liquidity management, the country is actively progressing towards the development of Islamic capital market. Malaysia is now also inviting the international players to experience its new dual banking system.


Ahmad, A (1997),” Towards an Islamic Financial Market, A Study of Islamic Banking and Finance in Malaysia” Research Paper No 45, Islamic Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah.

Rosley, S A (2003), “Performance of Islamic and Mainstream Banks in Malaysia” International Journal of Social Economics, Vol 30 – 12, PP 1249 – 1265.

The Central Bank of Malaysia, (1993-2003),”The Central Bank of Malaysia, Annual Reports“, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

, (1999), “The Central Bank and the Financial System in Malaysia: A Decade of Change (1989 – 1999)” the Central Bank of Malaysia Publication.

The Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad, (1994-2003),”The Central Bank of Malaysia, Annual Reports“, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

State Bank of Pakistan, (1999-2003),”State Bank of Pakistan, Annual Reports“, Karachi, Pakistan.




1 A form of partnership where one party provides the funds while the other provides expertise and management. The latter is referred to as the Mudarib. Any profits accrued are shared between the two parties in pre-agreed ratios, while loss is borne by the provider of the capital.

2 Musharikah means a relationship established under a contract by the mutual consent of the parties for sharing of profits and losses in the joint businesses. It is an agreement under which the Islamic bank provides funds, which are mixed with the funds of the business enterprises and others. All providers of capital are entitled to participate in the management, but not necessarily required to do so. The profit is distributed among the partners in pre-agreed ratios, while the loss is borne by each partner strictly in proportion to respective capital contributed.

3 A contract under which an Islamic bank finances equipment, building or other facilities for the client against an agreed rental together with a unilateral undertaking by the bank or the client that at the end of the lease period, the ownership in the asset would be transferred to the lessee. The undertaking or the promise does not become an integral part of the lease contract to make it conditional. The rental as well as the purchase price is fixed in such manner that the bank gets back its principal sum along with profit, which is usually determined in advance.

4 Literally it means a sale on mutually agreed profit. Technically, it is a contract of sale in which the seller declares his cost and profit. Islamic banks have adopted this as a mode of financing. As financing technique, it involves a request by the client to the bank to purchase a certain item for him. The bank does that for a definite profit over the cost, which is settled in advance.

5 Money at call, purchase of trade bills,

6 Legal reserve requirements of the Central Bank

7 Investments in federal and provincial government securities, the government borrowing from the Central Bank and the financial institutions, the government lending to public enterprises

8 The decision was made in a meeting held on September 4, 2001 under the Chairmanship of the President of Pakistan attended by the officials of the Ministries of Finance and Law, Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Chairman and some members of the Council of Islamic Ideology and the Chairman of the CTFS. (Reference, State Bank of Pakistan, Annual Report, 2003, page no 193).

9 The State Bank of Pakistan, Annual Report (2003), PP 194-195.

source : kantakj