Anxiety grips Afghan financial market as Pakistan faces terror listing

In this file photo, Afghan men wait to withdraw money from the Kabul Bank in Kabul. Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce warned traders and business community this week from dealing with Pakistan currency fearing the placing of Pakistan on FATF’s gray list. (SHAH MARAI/AFP)
Updated 13 June 2018
0

Anxiety grips Afghan financial market as Pakistan faces terror listing

  • Afghan traders and money-changers using Iranian currency are struggling with the fallout of US sanctions on the Islamic Republic
  • In about a dozen provinces, Afghans rely on rupees for their daily transactions, despite government moves to ban the use of foreign currency in routine transactions

KABUL: Afghanistan’s traders fear the expected placing of Pakistan on a global terrorist financing watchlist could seriously affect bilateral trade, which is mostly conducted in Pakistani currency.
The traders are already facing financial losses from the recent re-imposition of US sanctions on neighboring Iran.
The US and its European allies recently co-sponsored a motion calling for nuclear-armed Pakistan to be placed on a gray list of nations deemed to be doing too little to comply with anti-terrorist financing and anti-money laundering regulations under Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The motion is expected to be enforced this month.
Afghan traders and money-changers, conducting transactions in Iranian currency, are already reeling from the fallout of US sanctions on the Islamic Republic. 
Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce fears the placing of Pakistan on FATF’s gray list will have an even more devastating effect on the country’s foreign-reliant economy.
“In general, our concern is that sanctions on Iran and the inclusion of Pakistan on the gray list without doubt will damage trade and transaction,” Khan Jan Alokozai, deputy head of Chamber of Commerce and Industries, told Arab News on Wednesday.
“We are worried about it, about its effect on our trade,” he said.
Afghanistan’s exports to Pakistan, one of the country’s main trading partners, is conducted in Pakistani rupees, he said.
In about a dozen of the provinces, Afghans normally conduct their daily transactions in the markets by rupee, despite repeated government moves to ban the use of foreign currency in routine transactions.
Alokozai said his organization has not formally suggested that traders avoid stocking rupees or halt the currency’s use in daily business.
 Afghan money traders fear for their business if Pakistan falls on FATF’s gray list again. However, they continue to trade in rupees.
“We are aware of this, but people extensively use rupee like before. We do not know of any government announcement or policy in this regard,” Hajji Farooq, a money dealer in Kabul, told Arab News.
The inclusion of Pakistan in the gray list is part of a broader US strategy to pressure the country to cut its alleged links with militants fighting in Afghanistan.
Pakistan denies any links and has shrugged off a US aid suspension worth $2 billion. But inclusion on the FATF watchlist could inflict real damage, bankers and government officials say.
Islamabad has sought to head off the motion by amending its anti-terrorism laws and by taking over organizations controlled by Hafiz Saeed, who is blamed by Washington for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.
Pakistan’s $300 billion economy is expanding at its fastest rate in a decade at above 5 percent, but could lose steam if the country is placed on the FATF watchlist.


OIC countries seek to be dependent on their own halal vaccines

Updated 54 min 43 sec ago
0

OIC countries seek to be dependent on their own halal vaccines

Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata, JAKARTA: Member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are forging a way to become self-reliant on vaccines and medicines to the Islamic nations as representatives of their respective heads of national medicine regulatory authorities are meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the first time.
Penny Lukito, chairwoman of Indonesia’s National Agency of Drug and Food Control, said the first-ever meeting, which was called by Indonesia and kicked off on Wednesday, was timely since the dire health situation due to the lack of access to medicines and vaccines in some Islamic countries is worrying, especially in the least developing ones and those mired in conflicts.
“The capacity and ability of pharmaceutical industries in the Islamic world to produce essential medicines and vaccines are still at low proportions,” Lukito said in her opening speech. “We can’t let this situation continue unabated.”
This meeting, therefore, serves as a platform to identify gaps and opportunities for improving medicines' regulatory capacity, promoting public health and how to advance the pharmaceutical industry in OIC countries, said OIC Assistant Secretary-General for Science and Technology, Muhammad Naeem Khan.
“Overdependence on imported medicine and vaccines has had an adverse impact on the provision of health care in some OIC countries, including the refusal by some communities to use such medicines and vaccines,” Khan said in his opening remarks.
“It has also made many member states vulnerable to counterfeit and substandard medicines,” he added.
President of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority Hisham Saad Aljadhey said the outcome of this meeting will be very fruitful for individuals living in OIC countries in terms of availability and safety of medication.
“We have issues such as high prices of medication and building capacity," Aljadhey told Arab News on the sidelines of the two-day meeting. "We need to build a medicine regulatory agency within OIC countries which will focus on guidelines in accordance with the international ones and include good manufacturing practices for medication, review of scientific evidence, and to follow up on the safety of the product.”
Of the 57 OIC member states, only seven are vaccine producers and only a few produce export-quality medicines, while many countries, including the least developed ones -– many of whom are OIC member states -– still have to rely heavily on imported vaccines and medicines.
Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia Osama bin Mohammed Al-Shuaibi said Islamic countries need to collaborate on vaccine products because there are halal and non-halal vaccines, and vaccines would have to be approved by the ulema council.
However, he said Islam is very open and even if the medicine is not halal, people should take it to prevent death or illness to themselves and others.
“You can’t say this is not halal and your child is dead. This meeting will build more trust between Islamic countries to start producing their own medicines which are halal, if there is only a non-halal one. We try to find something halal, but if there is not, we have to have the medicine, whatever it is,” he told Arab News.
Febrian Ruddyard, the director general for multilateral cooperation at Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, said the meeting would produce a joint statement dubbed the Jakarta Declaration, which reaffirms the OIC countries’ commitment to strengthen the regulatory framework on medicines and vaccines.
“Health problems could disperse and cause other problems if we don’t regulate them. We can’t be healthy on our own. We have to stay healthy together,” he said.