By Raja Asghar
ISLAMABAD: The government introduced a bill in the National Assembly on Thursday to set up an authority to help Pakistan take a due share in what a minister put at trillions of dollars worth of world trade in halal food and other products.
The Pakistan Halal Authority Bill envisions the establishment of an Islamabad-based authority, with a high-powered board of governors, headed by the minister for science and technology, to develop and implement policies and programmes for the promotion of both international and domestic trade in halal products permissible by the laws of Islam.
The Punjab government already has a Halal Development Agency, but the new federal law will apply to whole of Pakistan for what it called “purposes of imports and exports with foreign countries and inter-provincial trade and commerce in all such articles and processes which are described or represented as being halal”.
A statement of objects and reasons from Science and Technology Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain, accompanying the bill, estimated the existence of “a huge international market of halal business worth trillions of dollars”, bulk of which, he said, was taken away by non-Muslim countries.
Noting that the scope of halal sector covers a wide range of items such as food, pharmaceuticals, health, food supplements and toiletries, the statement said: “Pakistan, being a Muslim country, is taking only a nominal share of this huge export potential due to non-existence of a legal and recognised entity/authority at the national level dealing with the halal sector.”
The proposed Pakistan Halal Authority will be tasked to recommend “halal standards for government-notified articles and processes for adoption by a National Standards Body in accordance with comprehensive guidelines of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), provide for certification of halal products and authorise a halal logo”.
Contravention of the new law will be punishable with imprisonment of up to six months, or with the fine of up to Rs500,000, but not less than Rs50,000, or with both.
The OIC guidelines, developed by what is described in the document as a Standardisation Expert Group, devote a substantial portion to defining halal and non-halal animals and manual or mechanical slaughtering of halal animals by an adult Muslim.
HALAL, NON-HALAL ANIMALS: Among halal animals are listed domestic animals such as cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats, camels, chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys; non-predatory animals such as deer, antelope, chamois, wild cattle; and non-predatory birds such as pigeons, sparrows, quails, starlings, and ostriches.
A longer non-halal list includes: pigs, dogs, and their descendants; animals not slaughtered in the name of Allah or not according to Islamic rules; animals that died of themselves; animals with long pointed teeth or tusks used to kill prey or defend themselves such as bears, elephants, monkeys, wolves, lions, tigers, panthers, cats, jackals, foxes, squirrels, martens, weasles and moles, crocodiles and alligators; predatory birds with sharp claws such as hawks, falcons, eagles, vultures, ravens, crows, kites, owls; pests and venomous animals such as rats, centipedes, scorpions, snakes, wasps, mouse and other similar animals; animals that are considered repulsive like lizards, snails, insects and their larva and other similar animals; animals forbidden to be killed in Islam such as honeybees and hoopoe; donkeys and mules; any ingredient derived from non-halal animals; and farmed halal animals intentionally and continually fed with non-halal food.
The house passed five government-moved resolutions to extend the life of as many presidential ordinances for a further period of 120 days, to save them from expiration until they are brought as bills, before being adjourned until 10.30am on Friday.
Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2015