Islamic MicrofinanceApproaches Practices seminar held

Islamabad: Speakers at a seminar have viewed that there are attempts to introduce microfinance options in the country through a number of microfinance banks and institutions for poverty alleviation mainly through banking institutions but they have not gained acceptance in the Pakistani society for being interestbased and exploitative.

They stated this while addressing a seminar on “Islamic Microfinance Approaches & Practices: A Case Study of Akhuwat” organized by Institute of Policy Studies IPS here on Wednesday. The seminar chaired by chairman IPS Professor Khurshid Ahmad and moderated by Dr Tahir Mansoori DG Shariah Academy IIUI.

They also viewed immense potential in Islamic microfinance as an alternative and appreciated the practices and approaches of the philanthropybased model of Akhuwat Foundation.
On the occasion Professor Khurshid Ahmad said that despite phenomenal growth in banking sector, its services remained focused at the rich segments of the society. He deplored that even the clear State Bank’s guidelines to conventional banks to allocate twenty percent of their services for the poor were being largely ignored.

Appreciating the Akhuwat model he said that for a real change in the society, efforts have to be undertaken simultaneously with topdown as well as bottomup approach. Those striving for real development in society should certainly work hard for improvement in governance and institutional performance but at the same time address to the needs and aspirations of the poor and help them attain a sustainable source of earning.

Commenting on Shariah regulation framework of Islamic economic institutions, he said that it should be rethought. “Unless experts of modern economics sit with Islamic scholars in these advisory boards, Islamic banking and financial options would remain limited in scope and restricted in operation. Innovative models in compliance with Shariah have to be evolved for reliance and sustainability”, he emphasized.

Dr. Muhammad Amjad Saqib Executive Director Akhuwat Foundation said that the Akhuwat initiative was based on the model of ‘Akhuwat’ brotherhood established by the Prophet PBUH between the Muslim immigrants from Mecca and their hosts, the natives of Madinah.

After a humble start twelve years ago with few thousand rupees, Akhuwat has so far lent around 3.6 billion rupees to over 260,000 families in 105 cities all over Pakistan for small business. All these loans were interestfree and were given to “economically active poor” along with entrepreneurial training and motivation to continue the cycle of mutual help on the basis of Islamic brotherhood. It was for this reason that Akhuwat has been able to attain a return rate of 99.83 percent without any litigation or coercion, he informed.
Dr. Tahir Mansoori said that it was very clear that people in the Muslim world, especially Pakistan, wanted to move away from interestbased economy and rapid growth of Islamic financial institutions in recent years was its clear evidence.

Yet there remain some questions and confusions with respect to banking companies but such questions seem to have been taken care of in Islamic microfinance and people had shown their confidence in these experiences. He however called for a stronger and more sustainable framework and asset base for such initiatives.

Professor KhaliquzZaman, chairman, department of Islamic Banking & Finance IIUI presented a thorough comparative review of microfinance and Islamic microfinance. He also identified some areas requiring improvements and put forth some recommendations for further growth and strengthening the operations of Islamic microfinance institutions.Muhammad Sarim Ghazi Head Shariah Advisory & Structuring, AlHidaya Center for Islamic Finance, Ameena Sohail senior IPS associate and others also addressed on the occasion.

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