ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's central bank has launched a mass media campaign to raise awareness and acceptance of Islamic finance among consumers in the world's second most populous Muslim country.

The campaign is part of an overhaul of Islamic finance activities in Pakistan, which also includes the establishment of a country-level Sharia board and new rules for Sharia-compliant financial products.

The central bank is rolling out a five-year plan for Pakistan's Islamic banking sector, which follows religious principles such as bans on interest and pure monetary speculation.

“There still prevails a significant population that is either unaware of Islamic banking or have confusions and misconceptions about its current paradigm,” said central bank governor Yaseen Anwar at the launch of the campaign on Thursday.

The campaign, developed alongside local Islamic banks, would help the industry reach ambitious targets including a doubling of its branch network in five years and a 15 per cent share of the banking system, Anwar added.

As of March, the industry held an 8.7 per cent share of banking assets and 9.7 per cent of deposits, central bank data shows.

The country's Islamic banking industry includes five fully-fledged Islamic banks and five takaful (Islamic insurance) firms, with an additional 12 conventional banks offering services through Islamic windows.

Anwar added the central bank is also at an “advanced stage” of issuing a detailed Sharia governance framework, which would outline roles for directors, management and Sharia boards.

Earlier this week, the central bank adopted a global standard for Islamic bonds, which could help issuers attract investors from the Gulf and elsewhere.

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