Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs (MORA) is apparently not religious enough to maintain its financial resources in a Sharia-compliant financial institute or an Islamic Bank or at least non-interest based avenue. It invests its money in conventional banks and earns profit from interest mainly to carry out Hajj operations, it was learnt from reliable sources.
According to official sources, the Ministry of Religious Affairs maintains bank accounts at conventional banks for carrying out Hajj operations every year in the country.
There are various incomes and expenses of ministry, including different fees/charges from Hajjis on the account of various services, the arrangement of Hajj operations from publications of applications to publications of advertisements in different media outlets.
Ironically, these deposits of the Hajj operations are mainly invested in interest-based bank accounts of various scheduled banks.
Hajjis’ Money Deposited in Islamic Banks
In 2016, Ministry of Religious Affairs revised its policy for banks with respect to pilgrims. Accordingly, the money of pilgrims is kept and invested in Mudarbah accounts of Islamic banks or in banks with windows of Islamic Banking operation.
This decision was taken on the repeated requests of Ulema and bankers of Islamic banks in the country, who demanded the government to opt out of using alternate banks for earning profit from Hajjis accounts.
As of now, a major part of Hajj collection process is free of ‘Riba /Interest’.
However, it has been learnt that MORA Pilgrim Welfare Fund is still maintained by a conventional bank and all remittances to Saudi Arabia for accommodation, transport and food arrangements of Hajjis are done through a conventional bank.
Besides, the ministry receives funds of millions of Rupees from the government on various accounts, including Hujjaj Compensation Fund and invests it in conventional banks.
The ministry was suggested to deposit its financial resources for Hajj operations in Islamic banks but it has not converted its financial system into a Sharia-complaint base yet, said a banker who was involved in the communication between a group of scholars and the ministry.
The renowned scholars of various schools of thoughts urged the concerned ministry to avoid using interest-based banks, but the policymakers and bureaucracy are reluctant to enact the mandatory suggestions for several years, he further said requesting not to be named.
In a situation where major banks have Islamic Banking windows and Islamic banks are equipped to handle/process all types of Shariah compliant transactions, Riba free Islamic banking should be the only choice.
The ministry authorized these banks to issue applications and collect the set fee. They are presently doing this job in full swing and have attracted a good number of applicants this year.
- Habib Bank
- United Bank.
- National Bank of Pakistan.
- MCB Bank
- Allied Bank.
- Bank of Punjab
- Bank Alfalah
- Zarai Taraqiati Bank
- Habib Metropolitan Bank
- Meezan Bank
- Dubai Islamic Bank
- Faysal Bank Limited
- and Askari Bank Limited
There are two full-fledged Islamic banks designated for this purpose. Besides Zarai Taraqiati Bank, all these commercial banks do have windows of Islamic Banks. Zarai Taraqiati Bank conducts arrangements with Islamic Banks to deposit money from Hajjis.
The ministry allows these banks to issue and receive applications, though their money is deposited in the accounts of Islamic division.
According to sources, there are various issues in dealing with bureaucracy at the ministry as different aspects of operations need to be aligned in accordance with the Sharia guideline.
Unfortunately, issues are not taken seriously at the ministry to bring reforms in accordance with the Islamic guidelines.