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June 18 - 24, 2001

Riba deadline frozen by a year

The Supreme Court on Thursday extended for one year the deadline for the implementation of its judgement which had declared all forms of interest-based banking un-Islamic.

The deadline, which was to expire on June 30, was extended to June 30, 2002, with another possible extension if the government showed sincerity in the implementation of the judgement. A four-member Shariat Appellate Bench had on Dec 23, 1999, upheld the Federal Shariat Court judgement declaring all forms of interest un-Islamic, and set June 30, 2001 as the deadline for the implementation of the judgement.

The four-member bench on Thursday held: "We don't doubt the intentions and sincerity of the Government, because according to documents, produced by the Attorney General, the work is being done and obviously it would take more time as it is (a) gigantic task and requires deeper application of mind by all concerned." The United Bank had filed an application, seeking suspension of the judgement till Dec 31, 2005. The federal government, too, had sought the extension to Dec 31, 2005.

Headed by Justice Shaikh Riaz Ahmad, the Shariat Appellate Bench refused to grant the time demanded by the UBL and the federal government through Attorney-General Aziz A. Munshi. "We would only allow time to the government till June 30, 2002 within which time the government will take effective steps for the implementation of the judgment and the court would also be in a position to know as to what substantial steps have been taken so that their bona fides may be judged." "Such prayer cannot be allowed. However, we would only allow time to the government till June 30, 2002."

Ishrat warns against money laundering

State Bank Governor Dr Ishrat Husain on Thursday warned banks that they should not become conduit for money laundering.

"I would not pretend that it is not there. I know it has been happening," said the governor referring to money laundering in Pakistan.

Speaking as chief guest at a seminar organized by Financial Markets Association, he said banks must be extremely careful in transacting businesses making it sure that they do not have an element of money laundering. He said money laundering had emerged as a critical issue world over adding that heads of almost all central banks of the world focused on it when they met in Basel last week.

He said the State Bank would have to have a full police force if it had to check money laundering through conventional methods. So he asked banks to start self-policing not only to check money laundering but also to ensure that they do not indulge in any unethical practices.

Ord okayed

Sindh Cabinet, which met on Thursday under the chairmanship of Sindh Governor Mohammedmian Soomro, approved the Sindh Privatization Commission Ordinance-2001 providing for the establishment of a Privatization Commission in the province.

The Ordinance, on coming into effect, will provide for implementing the privatization policy of Sindh government; a fair and transparent process of privatization to secure transactions resulting therefrom; utilization of the proceeds of privatization for the retirement of government debt and for poverty alleviation.

National health policy unveiled

The much-awaited national health policy 2001, with a motto of "health for all" and aimed at protecting the countrymen from hazardous diseases, promoting public health and upgrading curative care facilities, was unveiled on Tuesday.

Unfolding the much-awaited policy, Dr Abdul Malik Kasi, the federal health minister, told reporters that the new policy viewed the health sector investments as part of government's poverty alleviation plan.

Reduction in income tax on cards

The government is considering 4 to 5 per cent reduction in income tax for the corporate sector in the budget for 2001-2002 to be announced on June 16. Official sources said on Tuesday that the current rough 45 per cent corporate income tax will be brought down to about 40 per cent with a view to helping document the economy. The organized sector, which was paying due taxes, sources said, would be offered some concessions in the new budget. And the unorganized sector will be encouraged to become the part of the formal sector by having some 'new incentives' the budget would be carrying.

China assures of help for Gwadar sea port

The Chinese Communication Minister, Huang Zhendong, said on Saturday that China would extend all possible assistance for the development and expansion of Gwadar port.

The Chinese minister held out the assurance during a visit to Gwadar. He was accompanied by members of his entourage, besides Federal Communication Minister Javed Ashraf Kazi, Secretary Communication Iftikhar Rashid and Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Lu Shu Lin. Huang Zhendong observed that Gwadar Port project enjoyed an extra-ordinary importance for the economic development of Pakistan and there was a need for its completion on priority basis.

Mobilink, Ufone sign agreements with PTCL

Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) signed interconnect agreements with Mobilink and Ufone on Monday. First two agreements were signed with Paktel & Instaphone on June 7, 2001. These agreements come in the wake of Calling Party Pay (CPP) regime in the country under which incoming calls on mobile phone were made free.

The signing ceremony was attended by Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Maj Gen Khalid Bashir, Chairman PTCL Akhtar Bajwa, Chairman Mobilink Javed Saifullah, Chief Executive Mobilink Al-F. Barry and Chief Executive Ufone Arshad Khan. Chairman PTA expressed his satisfaction on the agreements and termed it a very significant step forward.