Powerful Pakistan government and media officials appear to be contradicting the domestic population’s embrace of bitcoin.
Pakistan Government on the Defensive, Maybe
Karachi, Pakistan’s Dawn, a widely circulated and read periodical and website in English, is rather cosmopolitan. Covering bitcoin, however, its website curation seems to have a decidedly negative slant.
Pakistan Herald Publications Limited is Dawn‘s owner, and its CEO is Hameed Haroon, noted regional journalist and member of a highly influential family in the country.
In one dispatch from Mr. Haroon’s flagship, reprinted all over the world, the headline announced, “FBR goes after bitcoin traders.”
FBR is Pakistan’s Federal Bureau of Revenue, its principal collector of tax.
“The top intelligence department,” the piece insisted, “is investigating cases where investors trade digital currencies probably to evade taxes or launder money.”
The sentence-inserted link refers to the site’s own coverage of bitcoin reaching 1000 USD early this year. Not a single reference to FBR nor an investigation.
“A senior tax official said people evade tax and launder money using cryptocurrencies,” the article asserts without a single quote or reference. “They buy bitcoin to launder their tax-evaded money […], adding that they park their black money out of Pakistan in many cases.”
Paraphrases are allowed, of course, but this drove news.Bitcoin.com to search relevant Pakistani government pronouncements on bitcoin specifically, cryptocurrencies generally.
The Dawn piece goes on in this manner, listing a veritable alphabet soup of agencies and investigators and laws employed to hunt bitcoin traders without citing a documented source.
What Blogs and Independent Sites Know
Faisal Khan, financial technology scout for venture capitalists and payments consultant, based in Turkey, blogged his similar bafflement.
After he too read the Dawn piece, he “wanted to explore the basis under which these raids are being conducted and wanted to comment on this further.”
He searched and searched.
Mr. Khan writes, “I’ve searched […], trying to find any circular &/or notification, gazette, SRO, press release, etc. related to Bitcoin &/or Cryptocurrency – but I could not find it.”
“For bitcoin to be considered for money-laundering,” Mr. Khan notes, “it has to be defined into an asset class whereby [bitcoin] has been declared [money] or some form of an asset as per ‘some’ legal definition in some law in Pakistan.”
He concludes, “Right now, the Government of Pakistan in no way recognizes [bitcoin] as legal tender or legal ‘anything.’ It has no legal standing under any law in Pakistan.”
Since the series of articles in Dawn, bitcoin seems to be capturing the attention of Pakistani rupee holders anyway.
Localbitcoins exchange activity in the region as of this writing has risen exponentially, matching a global pattern.
Citing Japan’s approach, long-time Pakistani commodity trader Shahan Rehman urged acceptance “by a country compels people to jump on the bandwagon, increasing its price massively.”
As of now, official government pronouncements are not available to the public.
Are Pakistan’s laws on bitcoin just not available digitally? Is the government on purpose holding back? Tell us in the comments below.