"It has highly contributed in establishing the fact that Pakistan is an investment destination country."

SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Bureau Chief, Islamabad
Nov 20 - 26, 2006

Despite the fact that all the good wishes and high hopes expressed by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz may not materialize in the near future, the three-day second World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) has proved a successful event.

In the words of State Minister for Economic Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, who had been actively involved in the organization of the event, "it has highly contributed in establishing the fact that Pakistan is an investment destination country". Talking to newsmen, she said: "WIEF, in my opinion, is of great significance to Pakistan because it shows us at least that the world is now recognizing Pakistan as an economic leader." Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Ashfaq Hassan Khan, Advisor to the Ministry of Finance, said that this forum would bring the Muslim countries closer to each other as far as economic cooperation and financial integration was concerned. By hosting this forum Pakistan has established that it offered many lucrative investment opportunities. It is a fact and has been proved by many meetings and signing of many memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on the sidelines of the conference.

The forum adopted the declaration, urging upon the OIC countries to accelerate sub-regional cooperation leading to the establishment of an Islamic Free Trade Area (IFTA). The OIC countries have been asked to provide full support to the WIEF and its activities and programmes and create an environment conducive to business, investment and economic growth through regular dialogue, consultations and smart partnerships with the private sector.

In the declaration, OIC states have also been urged to provide an efficient framework to facilitate the movement of entrepreneurs, capital and trade flows within and between OIC countries and promote and intensify Islamic Banking Finance and Insurance sectors.

The third World Islamic Economic Forum will be held in Kuala Lumpur from May 7 to 9 next year. However, the forum participants reaffirmed their support for the WIFE as well as for the World Islamic Business-Women Network (WIBN), its programmes, achievements and specifically its plan to establish a training center for women entrepreneurs, which will equip them with relevant business competencies and skills.

The participants also extended support to the WIEF Islamic Education Task Force and acknowledged its programmes. They also acknowledged signing of the two MoUs that include provision of nursing and health sciences training initiated by the World Islamic Businesswomen Network (WIBN) taskforce as well as enhancement of capacity building through international collaboration on research on vocational and technical training programmes initiated by the World Islamic Education (WEF) taskforce. The participants also supported the setting up of a WIEF Young Muslim Leaders Forum and its proposed initiatives and recommend that it should collaborate with other similar existing bodies.

Speaking at the inaugural session on 5th November, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, in his keynote address, floated the idea of an Islamic Economic Union by entering into multilateral free trade agreements and promoting free flow of capital, labour, goods and services. In this connection, he put forward a seven-point action plan, envisaging various integrated and calibrated measures. Among other things, it was proposed that OIC should evolve an effective dispute resolution mechanism to resolve its problems and put in place a sound framework for mutual cooperation. The Muslim world, according to Shaukat Aziz, must also undertake necessary political, economic and social reforms to create an enabling environment for harnessing its individual and collective potential by ensuring political stability, good governance transparency and improved delivery of social services.

The OIC member countries must focus on education and catch up on progress in the field of science and technology and skill development. The Islamic countries should evolve a comprehensive growth model and work out a strategy for balanced development. The less endowed Muslim countries should develop absorptive capacity to make optimal use of scarce domestic capital and to benefit from cross border flows. Depending upon individual comparative and competitive advantage, the Islamic countries should try to specialize and carve out niches for themselves in vital economic sectors. The Organization of Islamic Conference and Islamic Development Bank need to be repositioned and reinvigorated to attract international capital for enabling the Muslim countries to finance their growth.

The economic facts about the aggregate position of Muslim countries highlighted by Shaukat Aziz are true and have been mentioned a number of times at various forums. There is absolutely no doubt that these countries are far from realizing their full potential and, therefore, unable to provide a living standard to their people commensurate with their resource potential. There is a host of factors responsible for this situation and there is no easy route to overcome the obstacles to development. Obviously, Muslim countries have to reform themselves and work hard to achieve the goals of sustainable growth in order to join the league of developed countries. The proposals of the Prime Minister particularly in this regard provide a food for thought and worth consideration.

The Islamic Free Trade Zone has remained a cherished dream of the Ummah over the decades as part of the Pan-Islamic ambition. The plan for economic integration has been discussed over and over again in the past and calls for its implementation were also made periodically to strengthen the Muslim world economically. It is, however, unfortunate that no headway was achieved due to multifarious reasons. The urge for economic integration is ingrained in Muslim psyche to regain Islam's resurgence through economic development. Pakistan has understandably remained in the vanguard of all such efforts. It is, however, encouraging that the WIEF's Islamabad Declaration has produced a well throughout strategy to achieve the goal. The establishment of the Islamic Free Trade Zone is the imperative need of the Muslim world, since the developed countries are motivated by their prejudice against it. The Muslim world will, therefore, have to rise to the occasion and confront the challenge with courage, tact and wisdom.

We have always pleaded for establishment of Islamic Market on the European and ASEAN pattern for economic development of the Muslim world. The member countries of the Ummah have tremendous economic, trade and investment potentials, which need to be utilized for the good of the Muslims as a whole. IFTZ holds ample opportunities on this count. It is, therefore, important that the OIC countries should pursue regular dialogue, consultations and smart partnerships with private sector by supporting the forum and its activities and programmes to achieve the objective. That will certainly steer the Muslim world out of the economic domination of the West and other forces of exploitation and coercion. It's time that the Muslim world should rise and grasp the opportunity for Ummah's economic resurrection. There can be no two opinions about the fact that economic strength is the way forward to lift the Ummah out of its present quagmire. It's hoped that the Muslim world will not fall back and will look forward for its glory.


  • Population live below poverty line => 39%
  • Muslims are the 19% of world population but only 6% of its Income.
  • The share of Muslim world with global trade => 7-8%.
  • Muslim world mutually trade => 13%.
  • Muslim world have the 70% world hydrocarbon reserves.
  • The total size of GDP of the Muslim world is $2 trillion