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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Islamists unveil economic policy
Qazi Hussain Ahmed, left, leader of Pakistan's largest religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami
Qazi Hussain Ahmed (left) says investors will be welcomed

The five-member alliance of Islamic parties in Pakistan, which unexpectedly emerged as a third biggest political force in the 10 October elections, says that it would not insist on any changes in the country's economic policy which could harm its international committments.

"We want foreign capital coming into Pakistan, not going out," Qazi Hussain Ahmed, a central leader of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and chief of Jamat-e-Islami, told the BBC from Islamabad.

"And to achieve this, we want to create peaceful and investor-friendly conditions."

After more than two decades of dismal electoral performance, Islamic parties critical of the US-led "War on Terror" and Pakistan's satellite state situation swept the North West Frontier Province and performed well in Balochistan and Karachi, the country's industrial and business capital.

Rhetoric and reality

But now the polls are closed, little is known about the alliance's stand on issues such as Islamic interest-free banking and Pakistan's relations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

The lack of clarity to date has worried both Western diplomats and domestic investors.

The MMA now says that although it stands firm against US forces using Pakistani soil, it wants to promote a business-friendly environment to attract foreign investment.

But its leaders also insist that the alliance should end Pakistan's dependence on foreign donors and lenders by promoting self sufficiency - a claim some see as more a populist slogan than a practical policy.

"We favour re-negotiations with International Monetray Fund and the World Bank," said Qazi Hussain Ahmed.

"If we find their conditions just, we will accept them. Otherwise, we will ask them to reconsider some of their measures, but this will be done smoothly and gradually."


During the last three years, President General Musharraf's economic team has been largely credited with improving the country's economy - at least so far as economic indicators are concerned.

Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz has repeatedly expressed his confidence that the change of government in Islamabad will not affect change in the country's overall economic policy.

In the past, Islamic parties have repeatedly called for interest-free banking in the country - a key tenet of strict Islamic law as it relates to economics.

Given the initial reconciliatory tone of the MMA leadership after winning the elections, analysts believe that Islamic parties will eventually adopt a pragmatic posture on contentious economic issues, including "riba" or interest.

"Our beliefs are known on this issue," Mr Hussein told the BBC.

"It has been under discussion by the Federal Shariat Court, Islamic Ideology Council and the State Bank of Bank.

"What I can safely say is that we would like to shape our economic policies according to Islamic beliefs without violating our standing international obligations."

Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat




See also:

16 Oct 02 | South Asia
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17 Sep 02 | Business
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