LAHORE - The ruling elite and disunity of the religious parties are major factors behind Pakistan’s failure to implement a riba-free banking and economic system while other states are successfully benefiting from the same.

In a debate conducted on the question why Pakistan failed to implement riba-free banking, members of religious and religio-political parties blamed the government for not following the constitutional provision about introducing an interest-free economy that was supposed to come into operation after 10 years in the light of an order passed by the military regime of General Zialul Haq in 1982.

The leaders of all schools of thought agree that riba is haram (forbidden) in the light of the injunctions of the Quran and Sunnah, so it must be abolished. However, the question is what impeded this system and why they failed to implement it.

Now when secular states like UK and Japan are successfully running riba-free system in banking and certain other financial sectors to obtain better results, non-implementation of the same in Pakistan stands as an issue for the country has been constitutionally named as Islamic Republic’ and no law repugnant to the injunctions of the Quran and Sunnah can be enforced.

The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a representative body of all schools of thought, had declared the interest-based financial system un-Islamic. After a thorough consideration and research on the works of scholars, the council had prepared recommendations to purge the system of riba and put them before the government.

The military regime of Ziaul Haq introduced modarba, profit-and-loss saving and mark-up-based banking system, but that the steps taken by him were not sufficient. Zia’s government deferred enforcement of the whole riba-free economic system to next 10 years so that the government in the meantime could settle down its interest-based financial affairs. Instead of meeting this obligation, the PML-N government in 1992 challenged riba-free system before the Federal Shariat which dismissed the plea declaring riba un-Islamic.

The government went into appeal before the Appellate Shariat Bench of the Supreme Court which sustained the previous order in 1999 and gave two years to the government to act upon its guidelines for making the system riba-free. Later, the government and the banks sought review of the decision in 2002 and the court stayed action on the impugned decision and remanded the case to the FSC for rehearing.

The court issued a notice to the respondents and the decision remained pending for 14 years. Last time the case was heard in October 2015.

Without prejudice to the court proceedings, experts view that during the 15 years three different governments hardly showed interest in pursuing the case nor did they make any further efforts to for a riba-free banking and other system and felt complacent with what had already been done.

Interestingly, the religious parties which had launched a full-fledged movement for Islamis system in 70s also failed to force the coming governments to abolish riba though they firmly believed that infringement of Islamic injunctions was a major sin being continuously committed by the various governments on this score.

When questioned about enforcement of riba-free system, JUP-N leader Pir Ijaz Ahmad Hashmi blamed the rulers for shirking its implementation.

In his views, rulers come to power with the backing of America which is in favour of interest-based system in Pakistan. At the same time, he accused the religious parties and scholars of siding with the government.

He said JUI-F and JI, as major components of MMA, had worked much on Islamisation of economic system, one of which is partner with the federal government and the other in KP while MMA, as a united platform, has evaporated with the death of Maulana Ahmad Shah Noorani. He said everything has been ready on how banking and other financial sectors can be made riba-free since the time Maulana Abdul Sattar Khan Niazi was minister for religious affairs.

JUI-F leader Hafiz Hussain Ahmad argued that everything to purify the economy of riba is ready and if the government withdraws its appeal, this Islamic system can be enforced at once. He lamented no government made sincere efforts to enforce a riba-free system as rich rulers think interest as an easy way to multiply their wealth.

He said ulema from every school of thought with consensus had framed 22 points for enforcement of Islam in 50s. Hafiz Hussain said homework to enforce riba-free system is complete on the part of the Council, but homework to rid the system of interest was never started by any government since inception of the country, To a question, Hafiz Hussain said ulema are party to the pending petition, but the point is the case is not being heard since long.

Shia scholar Allama Mufti Kazim Raza Naqvi, who is the chairman of Darul Ifta, also subscribed to the view that insincerity of governments has been halting riba-free system. Allama Naqvi said there is no sectarian conflict on the enforcement of riba-free system as recommendations of the CII can sufficiently serve the purpose.

He also referred to research work of late Akayee Baqar Saddar, which provides for ways to completely transform the system into a riba-free economy.

Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary Information Ameer-ul-Azim said it is for the rulers to show sincerity to do the needful. He said the ruling class likes interest-based system as it provides them with means to eat up money of the poor.

Allama Zubair Ahmad Zaheer of Jamiat Ahle Hadith said enforcement of riba-free system is a religious duty of the governments. He said everything is there and will of the rulers is needed to implement the system.