Inside The World’s Anti-Crypto Countries: Iran & Pakistan

This article is part of a series on governments with an anti-crypto stance.

Understanding the cryptocurrency market in Iran

Back in April 2018, the Central
Bank of Iran published their decision to prohibit local financial institutions
and banks from getting involved with cryptocurrencies. The reasoning consisted
of terrorism financing and money laundering risks. Despite this aspect,
numerous studies showcase that while crypto can be used as an effective tool
for carrying out illegal activities, the level at which this is being done is
still fairly low. In fact, no terrorist attack so far was sponsored with the
help of digital currencies.

As you may already know, Iran has
been dealing with economic sanctions imposed by the United States for years.
There are some voices who believe that the Iranian government is actually using
digital currencies, as a means to dodge some of these economic sanctions. Iran
is therefore an interesting case study, since the country only banned business
and financial entities from dealing with crypto, whereas citizens are still
free to purchase, hold and invest crypto.

Based on the latest developments, Iran may become one of the first countries to remove the ban imposed on cryptocurrencies. For instance, back September 2018, the Iranian Cyberspace Council Secretary made a press statement, saying that digital asset mining is now accepted by the country’s authorities.

Developing a CBDC

Last but not least, several
reports mentioning that Iran’s government and national bank are working on a
central bank-backed digital currency have emerged. To put things better into
perspective, this coin would be centralized and thoroughly controlled by the
Iranian Central Bank. It is believed that its value will be backed by the
Iranian rial, thus ensuring a viable price from the start. As for the coin’s
purpose, if developed, it will be most likely be used for bank transfers,
settlements, and other types of government-linked payments.

An explanation of the digital currency market
in Pakistan

Pakistan is well-known for its
past financial bans and issues with payment processors. After all, payment systems
like PayPal cannot be used here. In terms of cryptocurrencies, back in April
2018, the State Bank of Pakistan has issued a notice stating that all cryptos
and tokens are to be banned in the country.

However, just like in most other
countries which have opted for an anti-crypto approach, the ban applies mostly
to organizations, exchanges and trading platforms. As the ban was effective
immediately, some cryptocurrency users in the country were unable to withdraw
their funds from local crypto exchanges. As such, crypto usage among citizens
has fallen considerably.

Banks are also forbidden to get
involved in disputes concerning cryptocurrencies, which means that no
protection is offered to investors. The ban was issued shortly after India
imposed restrictions for exchanges that offered fiat to crypto conversion

The statement which mostly shut down the market read: “The SBP has not authorised or licensed any individual or entity for the issuance, sale, purchase, exchange or investment in any such virtual currencies/coins/tokens in Pakistan (…) All banks, development financial institutions, microfinance banks and payment system operators, payment service providers are advised to refrain from processing, using, trading, holding, transferring value, promoting and investing in virtual currencies/tokens.”

It was also mentioned, that banks “will not facilitate their customers/account holders to transact in VCs/ICO Tokens. Any transaction in this regard shall immediately be reported to the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) as a suspicious transaction.”

Reasoning for the ban

Very little reasoning has been
offered to justify the ban. Reports indicate that simple arguments such as
fraud, money laundering or tax evasion may have backed the decisions. Digital
currency users in Pakistan have reported that cryptocurrencies could have
represented a new hope for country’s economy, alongside massive help for the
percentage of the population that remains unbanked.

Disclaimer: If you are looking to conduct digital currency-related activities in Iran or Pakistan, it is best to thoroughly check the updated applicable laws. Do not take the information presented in this article as advice.

Featured Image via BigStock.

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