Interview with Mr Hamad Rasool Bhullar – an analyst
PAGE: Tell me something about yourself and your career, please:
Hamad Rasool Bhullar: I am a freelance consultant/trainer and financial advisor with special reference to ethical and Islamic Financial System, for almost 20 years, both in public and private sectors in addition to being a passionate trainer on management and motivation to change the lives of the youth. I have a strong belief that we can shape our Pakistani community into a very efficient and productive community just through the right mix of training and motivation, while preserving the natural ethics and morality in our society.
I did my graduation from Hailey College of Commerce in 1990, after that I completed six post-graduations in Finance, Accounting, Economics, IT and Corporate Law. After graduation, I worked for an accountancy firm for almost 12 years, before joining a public sector organization. Have also over 28 years of experience in training the banking courses (both conventional and Islamic finance) in addition to being on the board of an Investment Bank for almost 4 years (2005-2008). I have the privilege to issue the first Islamic Sukuk in Pakistani market, and to help establish the first Islamic Microfinance Bank in Pakistan.
PAGE: How would you comment on Riba?
Hamad Rasool Bhullar: As a matter-of-fact Riba is prohibited in all its types and kinds not only in Islam but in almost every religion in the word including Judaism and Christianity. I had the opportunity to study some old literature from Christianity written by some learned priests and they have even declared it a course. Even if we go down to the history, we find out that during the times of Babylon Empire over three thousand years ago Riba was not only prohibited but to deal in Riba was a punishable crime. Even to earn Riba was disliked in the ancient Greek society. Islamic teachings have not only prohibited Riba but given a valid code of life through business and transaction mechanism. So, I believe that it is not only our religious but moral and social responsibility to eliminate Riba from the society. I have some friends from many different religions living in many parts of the world who have the same thought. However, it is only the Islamic Shariah who has guided us the right path for business and financing keep away from Riba.
PAGE: Your view on the promotion of the Islamic Finance in Pakistan?
Hamad Rasool Bhullar: Some of my friends including myself, have been working for this objective for over 15 years now, but individual efforts are not sufficient for achieving this goal. We need to allocate some budget for this purpose, from the affluent financial resources majorly through the Public Private Partnership Basis for achieving this goal. So far, we have very limited proportion of society, which have its clear understanding. The general thought of our learned elites is that it is just a twist of Islamic principles, while I myself had the same feeling during the early days, when of Islamic Finance was officially introduced by the State Bank in Pakistan in 2003. It took me over one year to understand clearly the whole system and its depth through meetings with the learned Shariah scholars, leading Islamic Finance professionals, reading and learning the relevant literature. After which, I started volunteering myself for the cause. I have a dream to establish a formal flagship institution for this purpose soon after I am able to provide resources for creating awareness and learning to the whole of Pakistan and the world.
We need to have institutions and organizations working in our society both in public sector and private sector, for this objective which must be working in collaboration with each other. Above all we need to train our society become a tolerant and skillful society, which can appreciate and decorate justice and learning instead of appreciating power and protocol. The recent Housing and Construction Policy from the Government of Pakistan can become a big boost for Islamic Finance both in microfinance and regular financial sector. As I always say that the bankers in Islamic Finance have to leave their comfort zone and connect themselves with the field to bring real growth in Islamic Finance
PAGE: How do you see the progress of Islamic Finance in Pakistan ten years down the road?
Hamad Rasool Bhullar: That is really a great challenge, we can divide our stance into two parts; Firstly, for our society where we see serious lack of transparency and financial responsibility. We as a nation need to build ourselves into a strong nation, in character, skills, integrity, social care free of greed and full of dutiful attitude especially in youth and business class. Islamic Finance can progress from this point further, only when we develop ourselves into a society in real Islamic terms both individually and collectively.
Now what we need to do is develop our belief by visualizing the system of accountability and Allah’s capability to bring up our deeds with intentions before us. We as humans have the habit to ignore this very fact, and postpone our responsibilities, rather living in a fool’s paradise of self-deception. But it is not a challenge for Allah SubhaanaWataalah, He just orders and it happens the very next moment. Now the second part is the nature of efforts we need to put towards the progress in Islamic Finance, we need to create systems, train the staff, create awareness among the businesses and common members of the society. We can expect a visible progress in Islamic Finance otherwise it will keep lagging behind. This brings my memory to recall my intention shown in an International Conference in 2006 in Karachi organized by State Bank of Pakistan, where I had asked my colleagues to work on these lines and a day will come when Islamic Finance will become the traditional Finance and Conventional Financial System will be taken as Un-Islamic and Un-ethical system. Let’s hope for the best and work for this vision.
PAGE: Your views about the Islamic Financing of today vis-à-vis the past?
Hamad Rasool Bhullar: As the time passes, a variety of challenges keep coming up, over the pat almost 17-18 years of Islamic Finance in Pakistan and almost 46 years of Islamic Development Bank (IDB) we has seen quite a reasonable growth in Islamic Finance, in the areas of Housing Finance, Sukuks, Istisna’a, Ijarah, Sallam, Diminishing Musharikah and Takaful, which can be considered appreciable.
Now if we examine it with past we can say that it is becoming stagnant and following the style of traditional banking system by making it business hungry more than Shariah-compliance, even lately it is thus bringing some sort of reputation risk for the cause. This risk can damage the cause and hinder the progress. We need to bring in new blood, with more enthusiasm and research work with the right spirit.
In the early years our colleagues in Islamic Finance had more enthusiasm, than the career progression, we need to re-energize the same spirit in our circles with a greater investment on awareness, discussions and research.