Pakistan’s own national celebrity and humanitarian Wakar Zaka has told Bitcoin News that his project, TenUp, played a key role in both informing the government about the technology and rousing a significant pressure group among the country’s population in favor of cryptocurrency legalization.
Pakistan’s Finance Minister Asad Umar has issued a recommendation to legalize cryptocurrency trading and business in the country. Around 5,000 digital currency exchanges are to be registered, while the cryptocurrencies will be classified as “investments” and net gains will be subject to taxation as per the US’s standard.
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) banned cryptocurrencies in April last year, so observers are asking, why the policy U-turn now?
Bitcoin News caught up with Zaka where he explained the vital role his own cryptocurrency project TenUp had in influencing the government’s decision.
”TenUp was actually a test case to use and present to the government to show how cryptocurrency work… the government was very humble and up for the technology so I knew that I had a chance.”
Zaka has been in contact with Finance Minister Umar for a while now and his relationship with the country’s top government officials including the prime minister meant he knew they would be a careful audience for his ideas.
The new cryptocurrency legislation is still in a “recommended” stage but should be rolled out by 20 July given its strong support from the finance minister who has assured there will be a focus on know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) policies when it becomes legal to trade. It is particularly exciting news as it will be the first time Pakistan is taking the lead in technology, particularly among its neighboring countries, Zaka noted.
The government task force
He is currently working closely alongside the new government-imposed task force devoted to ensuring the cryptocurrency legalization is rolled out responsibly and practically.
”The task force is taking contributions directly from us; basically, it’s us behind all the decisions. They will send us messages and ask us about stuff. I have full faith in the new government. The president of Pakistan is educated about the technology and is pro-blockchain. He is the first national leader in the region to be this outspoken in favor of it. He explains the technology in the common man’s language- that’s a very good sign for us.”
The task force is made up of ”tech-savvy guys” there to create appropriate legislation. Zaka has been showing them videos and presentations and sharing information about the TenUp project.
On the task force’s agenda is mainly how cryptocurrency will be traced and how to appropriately license come 5,00 exchanges to operate. There will also be a special investigation team set up for initial coin offerings (ICOs).
Zaka’s next ambition is to help launch a state-issued cryptocurrency for Pakistan; he has been using Venezuela and Iran as examples for the government to look into. But the Pakistani state is still in need of some convincing that it is the best decision. Zaka argues, however, that a government-issued cryptocurrency could be a way to bring in revenue from across the globe.
”Pakistan should hold its own ICO because the president has good credibility all around the world, better than Venezuela for sure. The entire world would look into it.”
He has high hopes and expectations that the G20 held in Osaka, Japan in June will be a big turning point for how cryptocurrencies are perceived on the international stage. ”India will definitely follow us in legalization,” Zaka predicted, ”we will see that in a month or so.”
Legalizing cryptocurrency will of course usher in some macroeconomic changes for the country, allowing much of the vast number of unbanked people in Pakistan access to personal accounts. New businesses and the technology sector would also flourish, perhaps even bring the ”tech revolution” Wakar predicts.
Celebrity for the good and bad
Zaka has happily used his celebrity status and huge fan following to share the message and educate people on cryptocurrencies. ”It was very difficult to make them understand how cryptocurrency can work and can eliminate money laundering for example,” he acknowledged.
”Everyone in my region, in India and Pakistan, thought this was a tool for money laundering. I have been education fans for about six months. There has never been another case of a celebrity with a big fan following promoting cryptocurrency properly. When a celebrity starts promoting it, their fans will follow it. Those fans become an army and then they start pushing the government. If other celebrities in India or Nepal start speaking up about it, I think people will definitely start to understand.”
Pakistani celebrities have historically tended to protest against religions such as Islam and build popular movements behind these ideologies so Zaka’s actions were quite unpredicted.
The problem, of course, comes when celebrities such as Floyd Mayweather throw their weight behind token projects that prove to be multilevel marketing or Ponzi schemes. These cases bothered the Pakistani government, of course, and Zaka made it clear he was not in conversation with the government for personal financial benefits by promoting his own cryptocurrency project, TenUp.
”In every region of the world celebrities should use their fame to help people not just to promote themselves. If you have fame you have responsibility. Celebrities in Nepal and India should look at the bigger picture.”
”I’m very happy the government has made the decision to legalize cryptocurrency and its a very big thing for our country,” Zaka finished.
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