Pakistan: PTI govt divided over control of halal authority

By Zaffar Butta – The Express Tribune

ISLAMABAD: The cabinet has been divided over placing the Pakistan Halal Authority (PHA) under administrative control of the Ministry of Commerce as the country seeks to boost export of halal food products to the growing international market.

Comprehensive discussions were held on the proposal of placing PHA under control of the commerce ministry in a cabinet meeting held in the first week of October.

During deliberations, some cabinet members pointed out that PHA was essentially a certification authority more aligned with the activities of the Ministry of Science and Technology. Some other cabinet members were of the view that PHA’s functions were related to the promotion of import and export of halal products, which were more relevant to the work of the Ministry of Commerce.

It was felt that both the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Science and Technology needed to work closely in order to become a significant player in the international halal food market.

The cabinet decided that a committee comprising the minister for science and technology, an adviser to the prime minister on commerce and adviser to PM on institutional reforms would hold inter-ministerial consultations to firm up constructive proposals.

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), in its meeting held on March 20, 2019, had directed Adviser to Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Ishrat Husain to undertake a comprehensive review of the current PHA role in relation to international halal organisations. He was also asked to present a viable plan for turning PHA into a vibrant organisation because of the potential of the global halal market.

The ECC told him to look into the issue of placing PHA under the administrative control of the Commerce Division or any other most relevant ministry and submit recommendations for the committee’s consideration within one month.

The adviser presented an overview of the global halal market and the potential for exports from Pakistan. He also highlighted the reasons for the unsatisfactory performance so far.

He called the formation of PHA a step in the right direction and said its law and mandate if implemented faithfully, would provide adequate support for the industry’s take-off. However, he said, a few weaknesses needed to be rectified.

He suggested that PHA must engage a reputable international consultancy firm that would help prepare a strategy and business plan for increasing Pakistan’s share in the rapidly growing international halal trade. PHA should follow the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) guidelines for certifying halal food and should focus on Middle Eastern countries, particularly the rich members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), he said.

The adviser emphasised that halal standards must be enforced on a wider scale, including expansion in the scope of accredited halal certification bodies, training of skilled manpower and an increase in the number of halal testing services. “Pakistan should develop a halal logo for all its halal products,” he suggested.

He also recommended that the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), PHA and other relevant bodies must establish a forum comprising all halal product exporters, which should meet regularly to resolve the problems faced by them.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2019.