Category Archives: Pakistan

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Exclusive Interview With Waqar Zaka: Celebrity TV Host Turned Bitcoin Philanthropist Praises ”Revolutionary” Technology

In a Bitcoin News exclusive, Pakistani reality TV host Waqar Zaka explains how he turned his journey from national celebrity into one of Bitcoin philanthropy.

Zaka’s spot as presenter and head of content on his show gave him a huge following of fans in Pakistan. He likened his platform to Fear Factor on MTV in the US, getting famous for doing self-titled ”crazy things” like putting his head in a crocodile’s mouth and kissing a cobra.

In 2014 a start-up called bitLanders approached him to promote the project in Pakistan, offering to pay him in Bitcoin. ”Before that, I had no idea what it was,” he told Bitcoin News. He quickly came to learn that cryptocurrency could have numerous significant implications on society, thinking ”this is something that could be really amazing.”

Conquering crypto in Pakistan

His mind turned to how the concept could be applied to help disadvantaged people in regions such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Syria, which are facing enormous issues when it comes to transferring money. Zaka took it upon himself to use his platform to educate the people of Pakistan and those around the world of how the technologies can be utilized in the aid of others.

It was not always an easy task, and he faced accusations of selling a Ponzi scheme or pursuing a financially self-interested cause.

But, a lot of people had confidence in him because of his national celebrity status in Pakistan, approaching him for advice on where to invest. This had problems of its own, as there were at the time a lot of crypto-related Ponzi schemes and multi-level marketing scams in the country and he needed a better way of helping people educate themselves.

Zaka started a campaign in the country to teach people about cryptocurrency and blockchain, which caught the eye of the likes of Consensus and CoinTelegraph. They labeled him a ”crypto influencer,” but not even he likes that title much.

In Pakistan, money laundering and corruption are pervasive issues, and Zaka started to use his newfound crypto fame to pressure the government into implementing blockchain banking services aimed at clamping down on this. Anybody sending money from the country would have to be reported with the hopes this would prevent money laundering.

”I believe this technology can actually change the future of Pakistan,” he said.

Blockchain refugee work

In 2015 Zaka went to Myanmar. This was the first time any Muslim was able to get into the region. He said he got in through simply using ”jolly good tourist attitude.” Once there, he took 55 families who had no house or passport or ID and moved them to settle in Nepal.

The next step was to educate them about Bitcoin and how they could receive money to ensure their financial security and self-sufficiency.

He also visited Syria and helped move families to the neighboring and far safer nation of Turkey. People were happy to support and trust his charity because blockchain donations meant people could see exactly where their donations were going.

However, Zaka says the work he is doing with the refugees is not enough, largely because the Bitcoin market fluctuations means that refugees are losing confidence in the cryptocurrency as a store of value.

It has also proven very difficult to share a lot of his crypto knowledge: ”For people who have not had much education at all, how do you teach them about wallets’ private keys? It is very hard and in very early stages. But, they need basic blockchain knowledge so they can earn through their mobile.”

Waqar Zaca pictured with Rohingya child refugees

Zaka says that his Bitcoin philanthropic efforts are nearly unique, and he hardly sees anyone else using blockchain for good:

”I’m not saying I’m the only one, but as far as I have seen in my research, it is not often used for very good causes. Whether more people will get involved or not, it depends on social media influencers. If people with platforms start showing how it can be used for good, like with refugees, only then will we see the benefit.”

He jokingly suggests that if Oprah said something about blockchain’s charitable use cases people might listen. ”Only celebrities can make a difference otherwise it will take a lot of time,” he reasons.

 

Waqar Zaka pictured with Fouzia and one of her five children. Fouzia lost her husband in the Syrian war. 

The TenUp project

In 2017, many people were asking him to invest in different coins. With an engineering background himself, he wanted to support local Pakistani engineers. ”They are all amazing and economical,” he said, ”meaning they work great as freelancers. But people weren’t hiring them as CTO’s or blockchain developers.”

So he came up with the idea of TenUp, ”like the double high five” he explains. Zaka has a huge, trusting following which may prove crucial for the token: ”A successful coin is always built around communities.”

TenUp’s technology is basic, ”no rocket science,” a simple payment transfer method, with the hopes to grow in the long run. Despite offering no technological breakthroughs, the token has huge goals in terms of philanthropy.

Its main aim is to provide free technical assistance to projects in countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

The TenUp team headed by Zaka wants to create blockchain applications that can help people, especially working with refugee projects. One project in the works right now is managing blood donations, recording how long people are waiting and who should be receiving blood next.

The coin is not the central focus, ”It’s like a share,” as Zaka describes it. The focus is on becoming the token used in the international charity sector.

”Some people looking to invest in TenUp ask, what will I get? I can’t promise you anything,” the project is not a get rich quick scheme, but based on the solid foundation of philanthropic work.

For Zaka, it is imperative that TenUp can become a stable coin, with a stable rate on CoinMarketCap. Then, Zaka wants to use it as an example to show his friend, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, with the hopes of pushing him towards issuing a state-backed crypto.

”To become a success story, you need to become successful first,” he says in acknowledgment that there is still a long way to go.

Waqar Zaka pictured with his team from TenUp

TenUp also wants to give free services to all of Pakistan in order to help the local tech industry. Zakar explains that it will be legal to buy the token in Pakistan because investors will need to use authorized bank transactions for purchases rather than use Bitcoin or Ethereum. That means official affidavit can be issued for ownership to be authorized. This is the first time a cryptocurrency is being sold like this in Pakistan that Zaka is aware of.

The initial coin offering (ICO) is scheduled at the end of November, while the token will be listed in December on TradeSatoshi.

Could a crypto call center be the answer?

One of the perks of TenUp is that it will have its own four language call center with trained staff to directly respond to any issue.

”If something goes wrong with your credit card you can go yell at someone. If I lose my private key where can I go? Human trust should be there. If a human is not there, crypto will not boom,”  Zakar shared with Bitcoin News.

Those answering the phones will be trained to offer advice not limited to TenUp: ”If you have a problem with any crypto, and you are a stakeholder in TenUp you can call through the app and they will try and help. A responsible person should be there to educate you not just about TenUp, but about the entire crypto world.”

Because of this requirement of human contact, Zakar believes that centralized exchanges will ”obviously” succeed over their decentralized counterpart.

”This entire concept of decentralization will not work for humans. People want to call and see who is on the other side. Centralization like Coinbase is very, very important.”

To learn more about TenUp you can visit the website, or follow Wakar Zaka on social media to keep up with his philanthropic efforts.

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Images Courtesy: Waqar Zaka

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Economic Turmoil In Pakistan Could Free Up Cryptocurrency Adoption

Soon to be prime minister, former Pakistan cricketer Imran Khan will be challenged to address the country’s current economic woes, which some have predicted may increase cryptocurrency usage.

An economic crisis is predicted in Pakistan on the eve of a major shift in the political landscape. The Pakistani rupee has depreciated 15 percent against the US dollar in recent months and the country’s net international reserves are now in negative figures. Meanwhile, the demand for dollars for imports exceeds Pakistan’s capacity to earn them through exports.

Amongst this turbulent financial climate, according to Forbes, LocalBitcoins trading volumes are on the increase which is reportedly a reflection of the cryptocurrency markets on the whole in Pakistan, partly fuelled by economic uncertainty and a increased confidence in Bitcoin.

Although Khan’s position is all but sealed, Gareth Leather, the senior Asia economist at Capital Economics suggests it matters very little who actually takes the reigns:

“Whichever party wins Pakistan’s upcoming general election will take over an economy on the brink of a balance of payments crisis. Growth is likely to slow sharply regardless of who wins Wednesday’s election.”

The fact that Pakistan’s Central Bank is curbing access for many Pakistani citizens to US dollars and pressuring fiat currencies means that over time cryptocurrencies will appear more attractive in the way that they have in many other countries with failing economies, such as Venezuela.

One of Pakistan’s first privately generated cryptocurrencies was Pakcoin which has been accepted as a mode of payment in various institutions since its conception over two years ago. In fact, it is said to be the first digital currency accepted by any Asian hospital. Ten retailers now use it in the country so that their customers can pay for goods and services using crypto.

To date, Pakistan has warned banks against ICO’s and cryptocurrencies in general with a statement to that effect in April of this year.

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Charities Must Embrace Blockchain to Make Genuine Impact, Report Says

A report conducted by independent think tank Charity Futures concluded that charities have yet to engage with blockchain with the kind of urgency required to keep up with technological advances, writes Live Bitcoin News.

The study, ‘Nothing to Lose (But Your Chains)’, was clear in pointing out that the charity sector had as yet failed to tap significantly into available blockchain technologies.

Asheem Singh, former interim chief executive of the charity’s lead body Acevo, who commissioned the report, said that blockchain held great potential for charity organizations. “Blockchain could herald the sort of seismic changes in the charity sector as the digital revolution before it,” he wrote.

The report suggests that there is one area of significance where blockchain could make the most impact should it be employed. Foreign aid was singled out, noting that aid distributed by the UK government currently stands at 0.7% of GDP, which in 2016 was GBP 12.7 billion. International aid has been susceptible to corruption and bureaucracy in many receiving countries, which are exactly the kinds of problems that blockchain’s accountability can address.

Many charity organizations are dragging their heels regarding the new technology according to the report. “Despite the potential benefits, the charity sector is currently behind the curve on blockchain technology,” the study said.

The report recommends the use of DLT by creating a transparent, end-to-end supply chain for each project. This means that all those involved – government departments, NGOs, funders, charities, local offices, delivery partners, and the individuals receiving the benefit have access up to the moment information regarding the funds or supplies donated.

Some charities and NGOs are getting it right, however. Along with IBM, both the UN and the World Food Programme (WFP) are now proactively using blockchain to record transactions.

As previously covered by Bitcoin News, WFP has been employing the blockchain in a number of its projects and making a significant impact in the field as a result. In just one of its recent programs, the organization has distributed cryptocurrency-based food vouchers to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, bypassing bureaucracy and getting aid to where it’s needed.

Singh feels that it is time charities came together with those actually creating the technology, in order to fully draw on its potential across the whole sector.

“It may be time for the sector to convene a high-level task force that brings together charity leaders and technologists… to articulate the contribution blockchain can and should make to the charity sector and the problems it is trying to address.”

 

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Asia and Australia: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 6th to 13th April 2018

Asia and Australia

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

Japan

Japanese cryptocurrency traders exceed 3 million: Japan is one of the most crypto-friendly countries out there with more than 3 million Japanese trading in cryptocurrency according to the latest figures from its Financial Services Agency (FSA). The data also highlights that there were 17 registered cryptocurrencies by the end of March.

Millennials and younger age brackets represent 90% of the crypto traders. This data shows the inclination of the Japanese young populace towards the crypto trading phenomenon despite the recent Bitcoin price tank.

FSA halts operations of two exchanges over KYC failure: The FSA has ceased the operations of two exchanges when they failed to implement the Know-Your-Customer (KYC) licensing requirements. External Link and FSHO were also given penalty orders.

The move follows the agency’s suspension of 15 exchanges that were found to be complacent in implementing the rules and regulations of the FSA. The two exchanges were not available for any comment.

Government-backed study declares ICOs are not scams: While acknowledging the challenges that ICOs present, Japanese government’s recent study found out that ICOs are not scams and the right regulatory frameworks will be needed to legitimize them under the national infrastructure.

Insider trading and money laundering were found to be one of the major challenges posed by ICOs and cryptocurrencies.

South Korea

Financial watchdog investigating banks for crypto association: South Korea’s top financial watchdog Financial Services Commission (FSC) has announced that it will investigate three banks to see if they are complying with the new anti-anonymity regulations imposed by the government.

The FSC announced back in January that investors in South Korea will have to buy cryptocurrencies under their own own name and using fiat banking channels to tackling money laundering practices.

Police detain two cryptocurrency exchange executives for questioning: South Korean police has detained executives from two cryptocurrency exchanges for extensive questioning. Four executives were arrested, including the CEO of Coinnest, over charges of embezzlement and money laundering. Prosecutors claim that billions of Korean Won (KRW) were transferred from client accounts that could amount to fraud.

These arrests are part of a wider initiative by the government to clean house after a recent exchange hack.

China

Chinese state cryptocurrency to feature negative interest rates:  The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has been working on a possible state cryptocurrency for some time, while cracking down on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like  Ethereum.

In a surprise move, the PBOC’s director general of financial research said that negative interest rate for the state cryptocurrency was on the cards: “In the long run, due to the lower natural interest rate, monetary authorities can incorporate negative interest rate policies into the normal monetary policy toolbox.”

Giving no quarter to cryptocurrencies: While China may be relaxed on blockchain research and implementation through their national system, it is tightening controls over cryptocurrency traded in the country.

The Bank of China appointed a new head in Yi Gang and many people’s hopes were crushed once Gang announced his sweeping anti-cryptocurrency measures.

Police halt blockchain conference in Shanghai: The Chinese crackdown on cryptocurrencies continued this week as a blockchain-themed conference was abruptly raided and closed down by the police in Shanghai on Thursday. The Global Fintech and Blockchain China Summit 2018 was organized as a business conference but was raided around midday by the Chinese police.

According to PTP, the organizer said, “We are still investigating the reasons of the halt, and so far the explanation offered by the police is due to security risk. We are working on a solution regarding how to make up for event attendees. The conference is in compliance with the regulation in China and does not feature any ICO roadshow.”

An update is expected in the near future.

India

India prohibits banks from handling cryptocurrencies: In a sweeping move, the Reserve Bank of India has announced that all banks and regulated financial entities will now be prohibited from dealing or abetting in trading cryptocurrencies.

The reason behind this was described as “associated risks” of cryptocurrencies and the ban was effective immediately.

Over 17,000 sign petition against Indian crypto ban: A petition with over 17,000 signatures was tabled against Indian Reserve Bank’s much-criticized move of banning cryptocurrencies in the country. The petition was mostly driven by younger users who are employed in the blockchain industry in the South Asian country.

Pakistan

Pakistani central bank snubs cryptocurrencies: The State Bank of Pakistan recently announced that financial companies are now barred from sending money abroad through cryptocurrencies. The announcement also carried an “advice” to refrain from “processing, using, trading, transferring value in virtual currencies or tokens…”

The move follows the regional trend of banning and warning against cryptocurrencies.

Australia

Australia sets deadline for registration of cryptocurrency exchanges: Australia has recently implemented regulations suggested by the Australian Financial Intelligence Agency and is now requiring all cryptocurrency exchanges to register themselves before mid-May 2018.

These regulations were passed after the Australian Senate passed legislation: “Effective immediately, DCEs (digital currency exchanges) with a business operation located in Australia must now register with AUSTRAC and meet the Government’s AML/CTF compliance and reporting obligations”.

 

 

 

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Over 17,000 Sign Petition Against India’s Crypto Ban

A petition supporting blockchain has gained 17,000 signatures since India Central Bank’s announced it was to terminate business with crypto-related accounts on 5 April.

Starting on the same day the Central Bank made its statement, the impetus behind the petition has been driven mainly by younger users who are employed in the industry, citing youth unemployment as a major concern.

The petition notes that blockchain technology is here to stay and that any prohibition of business activities reduces India’s competitiveness in the market risking the country being “left behind”.

Leaders from within the industry have been voicing their own particular concerns about the ban since the petition. Nischal Shetty, CEO of crypto exchange WazirX, sent a direct tweet to the Reserve Bank of India asking it to “think progressively” and “reconsider” its decision.

US, Japan, South Korea go towards regulating Cryptos so that their country progresses while RBI decides to block Indians from getting involved in the crypto revolution. We need to think progressively, @RBI please reconsider this and let’s take a positive step forward 🙏🏻

— Nischal (WazirX) (@NischalShetty) April 5, 2018

As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India needs to remain competitive by providing new technologies with skilled labour. The blockchain and cryptocurrency sphere is one such area employing many young people.

India has one of the highest youth populations in the world; current estimates indicate a high of 356 million youth. By 2020, 500 million Indian citizens are expected to be under the age of 25.

India’s recent financial growth has not trickled down to benefit the sheer volume of young people who are out work. A lack of skilled manpower is one of the reasons behind such large numbers of unemployed youth and new technologies provide opportunities for new skills to be developed. Since its introduction, blockchain technology has created tens of thousands of jobs for young Indians.

The economic factor is also a concern to many. Recently, tech investor Tim Draper voiced his concerns with the Central Bank’s announcement, suggesting that this “mistake” could cause a tech drain.He believed this scenario to be likely following any total ban of cryptocurrency in India due to other emerging players around the world needing the technological expertise to develop their own industry portfolios.

Pakistan’s State Bank was quick to follow India last week with a statement confirming that financial companies would be barred from working with cryptocurrency firms in the country.

 

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Pakistan Central Bank Curbs Crypto

Pakistan’s State Bank (SBP) has issued a statement which confirms that financial companies are now barred from working with cryptocurrency firms in the country.

The SBP website’s statement confirmed that all banks in Pakistan “are advised to refrain from processing, using, trading, holding, transferring value, promoting and investing in virtual currencies or tokens… any transaction in this regard shall immediately be reported to the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) as a suspicious transaction”.

Pakistan’s FMU sees its goals as developing a strong reporting culture amongst financial institutions, making a contribution towards fighting money laundering and terrorist financing. It also sees itself as a recognized model of financial intelligence gathering, analysis and dissemination in Pakistan.

In the wake of this announcement, there has already been an impact on the industry in Pakistan. Urdubit, an exchange which was first launched in 2014, has shut down. Users attempting to access the platform today will be greeted with a screen message, “Urdubit is Shutting Down”, warning its users to withdraw their funds “as quickly as possible” due to a “State Bank of Pakistan prohibition on dealing with virtual currencies”.

Rodrigo Souza, co-founder of BlinkTrade, the provider of Urdubit’s open source software, suggests that governments and banks will fight Bitcoin due to a potential run on the central bank.

The news of Pakistan’s curb on cryptocurrency trading comes just a day after India’s announcement on Thursday that The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was now strictly prohibiting all banks and regulated financial entities in dealing with cryptocurrencies. On the news of India’s announcement, the price of Bitcoin plummeted to a low of 350,000 Pakistani Rupees  (USD 5,392) against its international market price of USD 6,617 according to cryptocurrency exchange Coinome.

Following yesterday’s ban the Pakistani government has indicated that those using cryptocurrencies to transfer funds outside Pakistan could be prosecuted. The SBP declared “no entity is currently licensed or authorized by SBP  to offer money remittance services and products in Pakistan using virtual currencies/coins/tokens”.

 

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