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Islamic banking in Pakistan: progress and outlook

In Pakistan, Islamic banking has registered substantial growth over the last few years. Along with increase in number of branches, windows and diversity of Islamic banking products and services, the size of Islamic banking balance sheet has improved significantly. The growth continued during FY20, as the assets and deposits of the Islamic banking grew by 21.4 percent and 22 percent, respectively. Due to substantial growth, Islamic banking has become systemically important as it presently enjoys share of 15.3 percent and 16.9 percent of the overall banking assets and deposits, respectively by 30th June 2020.

Financing to Deposit Ratio (FDR) of Islamic banking was recorded at 57.6 percent comparatively higher than the overall banking s advances to deposits ratio of 46.3 percent at end June 2020. Moreover, the Return on Equity (ROE) and Return on Assets (ROA) after tax of Islamic banking recorded at 29.6 percent and 2 percent, respectively, were better than overall averages of aggregate banking.

In terms of market infrastructure, Islamic banking has sustained a positive growth over the years. Presently, there are 22 Islamic Banking Institutions (IBIs) including 5 full-fledged Islamic banks, one specialized bank and 16 conventional banks having Islamic banking branches. The IBIs are providing Shariah-compliant products and services through their network of 3,274 branches in 122 districts.

To enhance outreach of Islamic banking products and services, IBIs added 361 branches to their branch network during FY20. To cater the needs of lower income strata of the populace, Islamic Microfinance services are also being provided by two IBIs: NRSP Bank and MCB-Islamic.

For the promotion of Islamic banking during FY20, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) continued its efforts and took following measures:

Islamic financing facilities

State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) issued Shariah-compliant alternatives of its major conventional re-finance facilities during the FY20 which mainly include ‘Islamic Refinance Scheme for Working Capital Financing of Small Enterprises and Low-End Medium Enterprises’, ‘Islamic Financing Facility for Renewable Energy (IFRE) and ‘Islamic Long Term Financing Facility (ILTFF) for Plant & Machinery’.

Adoption/adaption of AAOIFI Shariah Standards

With the purpose of standardization and to align the practices of the domestic Islamic banking industry with internationally recognized standards, SBP notified adoption of three Shariah Standards of Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) i.e. Shariah Standards No. 19 (Loan (Qard), No. 23 (Agency and the Act of an Un-commissioned Agent (Fodooli) and No. 28 (Banking Services in Islamic Banks) in FY20. With adoption of the aforementioned Standards, SBP adopted fifteen AAOIFI Shariah Standards while further Shariah Standards are in pipeline for adoption.

Awareness and capacity building programs

One of the key focuses of SBP pertains to capacity building of the industry and raising awareness among masses regarding Islamic banking and finance. SBP has been playing its key role as a regulator and facilitator. As a regulator, SBP issued instructions in January 2020 requiring banks to arrange training sessions for branch level staff of IBIs.

As a facilitator, following a multi-pronged strategy, SBP is not only supporting stakeholders for their capacity building and awareness initiatives, but also remained actively involved in conducting programs on its own and through its training subsidiary, NIBAF. COVID-19 pandemic has affected the frequency of awareness and capacity building programs for the Islamic banking industry during FY20.

The following key initiatives were taken during the FY20:

  • Initiatives for Awareness and Capacity Building Programs for Islamic Banking Industry were taken by SBP in collaboration with the NIBAF, offered nine iterations of a training program titled ‘Fundamentals of Islamic Banking Operations (FIBO)’. The customized training program is designed to target branch managers, operation managers and relationship managers of banks, academia and Shariah scholars. The program was offered at various geographical locations of the country including Bahawalpur, Quetta, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Lahore, Sukkur, Sialkot, Hyderabad and Multan.
  • To promote better awareness about Islamic finance amongst the Shariah community, short certification programs of one/two day(s) each were also conducted in collaboration with IBA-CEIF, COMSATS and religious educational institutions during FY20.
  • In pursuit of up-scaling capacity levels of Shariah scholars serving the Islamic banking industry, SBP in collaboration with NIBAF, launched a comprehensive training program exclusively for Shariah scholars. The second iteration of the certification program was successfully concluded during the FY20.
  • SBP, in collaboration with NIBAF, organized a dedicated two-day program for officials of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) in FY20. The objective of the program was to provide them an overview of Islamic banking products and services and to clarify their queries and misconceptions about Islamic banking.
  • On the recommendation of SBP, Focus Group on Islamic Finance at Ministry of Finance (MoF) is serving as a center point to deal with the matters related to Islamic banking and finance.
  • During FY20, two-day capacity building program was organized for the focal persons at MoF and other government departments/ministries. The program was attended by the officials of the Federal Board of Revenue, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Ministry of Finance.
  • During FY20, SBP continued to provide patronage to Islamic banking industry for Islamic Finance Media Campaign. In FY20, the media campaign was rolled out through television, newspapers, radio and digital media.
  • Islamic Finance News (IFN), in collaboration with SBP, organized the ‘IFN Pakistan Forum’ during FY20. The Forum served as a platform to identify critical issues surrounding the Islamic financial industry and objectively explored potential solutions to overcome the challenges. Participants from the local Islamic financial industry, regulatory bodies, academia and Shariah scholars attended this forum.
  • SBP organized AAOIFI’s Public Hearing Session on two Exposure Drafts, 1) Code of Ethics for Islamic Finance Professionals and 2) Waqf Governance during FY20. The session was attended by leading Shariah scholars and senior Islamic bankers from Pakistan. Secretary General AAOIFI also attended the session.

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