LAHORE: An all-powerful and wide-ranging agency is being established in Punjab to promote the trade of halal food and non-food products in the province.

Another purpose of the Halal Development Agency will be to ensure implementation of uniform halal standards and other directions of the Pakistan Halal Authority (PHA) in the province.

The agency is being created under a law and will be headquartered in Lahore, having powers to set up offices at other places as, when and where required, but after permission by the government.

The agency will be governed by a board whose chairman will be nominated by the chief minister. Its members will include secretaries of the auqaf, industries, livestock, agriculture and food departments, and six others including two eminent women, having expertise in one or more of the following fields -- food technology and nutrition sciences, pharmaceuticals, religious affairs and poultry and livestock industry.

The job of the agency will be to maintain a continuing working relationship and co-ordinate with the PHA, international forums, entities and organizations to promote halal concept and certification, and develop procedure and auditing system for the implementation of halal standards and certification.

It will issue domestic halal certificates to verify that the products listed meet Islamic guidelines laid down by the Shariah, and halal license certifying that the plant, production facility, food premises, slaughterhouse-abattoir or the establishment handling food had been approved to produce, distribute or market halal food or the items listed therein.

It will maintain a register of all the approved companies, prescribe rules and procedure for issuing the halal certification, authorize use of the halal logo by the halal certificate holders, recommend the PHA to suspend or revoke the halal certificate issued by it for export or import, develop capacity of all stakeholders for development of halal products and certification system through national and international coordination and support.

The certificate could be used for signifying that the product is neither haram, nor najis and has been produced in conformity with the injunctions of Islam and is halal and fit for trading and consumption.

The law of the agency will bind every manufacturer of an article, food or a product to disclose on the rapper, bottle or container containing the eatable its components, parts, ingredients, quality, date of manufacture and expiry to enable the purchaser to make a decision that the article, food or product is free from all haram and najis elements or ingredients. It will also prohibit selling haram or najis article Misuse of the agency’s name, mark or logo will be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with a fine of up to Rs1 million but not less than Rs100,000, or with both. Articles produced this way could also be forfeited upon conviction.

Other violations of the law like selling of items not containing halal ingredients will lead to imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with a fine of up to Rs500,000 but not less than Rs50,000, or with both.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2016