Pakistan court reins in FIA, central bank over digital currency ban

The Sindh High Court in Pakistan has heard a petition filed in opposition to a nationwide ban on cryptocurrencies, giving fresh insight into the legal position for digital assets in the country.

In critical remarks against the country’s central bank and leading investigative authority, the judge said individuals must be allowed to get on with their business, free from undue interference from state agencies, according to reports from local media outlets.

In particular, the court singled out the federal enforcement agency and the country’s central bank for their role in what amounts to a de facto ban on digital currencies in Pakistan.

Justice Amjad Sehto asked the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to stop unduly harassing digital currency users, after hearing how the agency had been undertaking enforcement action at its own behest against those engaged in the sector.

The judge also issued a show-cause notice, demanding the FIA Cyber Crime Deputy Director appear before the court to answer the claims.

As well as accusing the FIA of undertaking its own enforcement remit, the petition also alleges the State Bank of Pakistan is refusing to open digital currency accounts. Despite being named in the case, FIA and Assistant Attorney-General Gulfaraz Khattak failed to submit timely replies, resulting in a summons for the Finance Secretary to appear in court.

Criticizing the actions of the FIA, the judge said the agency must allow individuals and companies to conduct their business: “FIA does not do its job, nor does it allow others to conduct their business. If the FIA bothers you, let us know.”

Responding, lawyers for the central bank said it had not asked the FIA to take action against digital currency users. Further, the bank said it had not imposed a digital currency ban, despite the enforcement action being taken against those involved in digital currency transactions.

The case will now resume on January 13.

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