The crypto ban in Pakistan is proving to be not as effective as expected. If anything, the State Bank has barred commercial banks and financial firms from dealing in cryptocurrency which, of course, makes life harder for local exchanges. Individual traders, however, are finding alternative ways to acquire or sell cryptocurrencies, defying the warnings and the prohibitions.
Pakistan’s experience with cryptocurrencies offers another example of how ineffective financial authorities can be when trying to fill a legal vacuum with prohibitive administrative measures. Central banks often forget they are neither parliaments, nor governments, and their regulatory overreach cannot legitimately substitute the normal legal process. The recent decision of the State Bank of Pakistan to ban crypto-related activities proves that observation.
In early April, the SBP issued a circular on the “prohibition of dealing in virtual currencies”, right after a similar measure by the Reserve Bank of India, the regional rival. Unlike their Indian colleagues, who gave banks and traders three months to comply, Pakistani central bankers imposed the ban with immediate effect. SBP said virtual currencies and tokens were not legal tender and reminded it had not authorized any individual or entity to issue, sell, purchase, or exchange any such coins in Pakistan. All banks, microfinance entities, payment system operators and service providers were “advised to refrain” from dealing in cryptocurrencies.
The local market is by no means comparable to India’s booming crypto sector. According to Danyal Manzar, CEO of Pakistan’s first bitcoin exchange Urdubit, about 100 different…