A conversation with Waqar Zaka on the potential and challenges of crypto-currency in Pakistan
The News on Sunday (TNS):
What, according to you, is the potential of crypto-currency and bit-coin mining in Pakistan?
Waqar Zaka (WZ): My work in crypto-mining and financing shows that a crypto-currency can be of great benefit to Pakistan in terms of the amount of cash flow it can bring in. My dream is to see Pakistan amongst the world’s richest countries. It is in order to fulfill this dream that I have initiated the Technology Movement Pakistan. It is under this movement that I have set up a, KPK government-approved hydropower system for research and development in crypto-mining. It is one of the world’s few crypto-mining systems that do not harm the environment in any way. The system has been set up without any foreign investment. Its very existence shows that Pakistan has immense potential in crypto-currency investment and mining. Crypto-currency investments can bring great returns. I could have pursued my interest in crypto-currency anywhere in the world but I chose to do it in Pakistan despite an unfavorable environment. I wanted to show that the country can do it.
TNS: Despite a legal ban on crypto-currencies the bit-coin appears to have arrived in Pakistan. Do you think now is the right time to regulate bit-coin investment?
WZ: The right time to regulate bit-coin investment was when I first posted a video regarding this on my Youtube channel five years ago. A bit-coin was then selling for $268.65. As we talk today, a bit-coin is selling for as high as $30,714.30. This alone shows how it is becoming a currency of the modern world. The fact its value depends on the number of people investing in it means that its value will increase fast. Of course, no one can predict the exact time to invest in a crypto-currency. However, analysts can always spot the trends. On May 18, I spoke live on ARY News to warn people against an impending dip in the currency. My advice for Pakistan to invest in the currency is well informed. I have been urging the government to pay attention to the crypto-currency opportunities since 2015. I am still fighting a case in this regard in the Sindh High Court. We can learn from countries like Venezuela that came up with petro, their own crypto-currency, in 2018. El Salvador is another example. It was the first country in the world to make bit-coin legal tender. Japan has followed suit and legalised the bit-coin as a crypto asset. These countries saw the potential of crypto-currencies early. They are now reaping the benefits. That the currency has managed to penetrate into Pakistan is clear from my Facebook group. Millions of members are paying $10 a month to learn more about crypto investments. I hold that the ban on crypto-currencies is unconstitutional. Also, the State Bank has not been clear about it. As a result they can disallow banks from financing crypto-currency investments and pick on anyone they wish without even regulating the crypto-currencies.
As we talk, a bit-coin is trading at as high as 30,714.30 US dollars.
TNS: Binance is now the fourth most downloaded app in Pakistan. How do you explain the apparent crypto-currency boom in the country given what you call an unfavourable environment?
WZ: When I started producing videos on crypto currency and talking about it online my Living on the Edge following and other people developed an interest. It helped that I was making a lot of money from my crypto-currency investments. I left my ARY Digital career and Living on the Edge because I was earning well enough from crypto-currency investments. Once people saw me travelling first class and visiting places like Tomorrow Land without a traditional business, they started thinking about the benefits of crypto-currency. I eagerly spoke about my success online and people developed an interest in the crypto concept. When I was nominated amongst the world’s top five crypto influencers by Binance, it added to my credibility. On December 17, I was able to announce that “State bank of Pakistan has stated in the court that they had never declared crypto currency illegal”. This, went a long way towards creating a more favourable environment for a crypto-currency boom in the country.
TNS: You mentor hundred thousands of Pakistanis on the subject. What are some of the major challenges investors in crypto-currency face in Pakistan?
WZ: When the government has an unclear policy on an industry, the investors will face problems. Until a few years ago the FIA would declare anyone even talking about crypto-currency a person of interest. The unconstitutional ban still causes problems to investors. Someone recently tried to import a nano-ledger USB to store bit-coins and was stopped by the post office for dealing in illegal stuff. The crypto committee formed in Pakistan has also been dissolved by the government. Most officials that I have talked to neither understand nor show interest in the concept. Banks too have issued a notice declaring “Bit-coin being a virtual currency is not regulated by the State Bank of Pakistan. Further, the SBP has not granted any permission to any individual/ entity to deal in digital/ virtual currencies.” Using this, they declare any investment in crypto-currency via a bank as unauthorised. I am currently fighting a case in the Sindh High Court to get an order to the State Bank to allow account holders to buy bit-coins using their Pakistani bank accounts. There is no law that stops a Pakistani from buying a software. So why are banks stopping their clients from doing so (buying bit-coins)?
The writer is a staff member.