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PESHAWAR, June 9: The provincial public sector Bank of Khyber is risking failure to meet targets of its 2013 extension programme as it has not opened a single branch so far during this year.

Official sources privy to the matter told Dawn that BoK had got approval from the State Bank of Pakistan for establishing 21 new branches in 2013. However, it has yet to open up the first of the targeted new branches.

“Work is under progress at varied phases as in some cases we have signed rental agreements (to set up branches in rented buildings), in a couple renovation is being done, and, similarly, in some cases sites are being identified for setting up new branches,” a senior BoK officer told Dawn under an understanding of not printing his name.The bank has got approval from SBP for setting up 13 new conventional banking branches and eight new Islamic banking branches, taking the total number of its branches to 100 by Dec 31, 2013.

The officer said the delay won’t attract reaction from the SBP even if BoK could not set up all the branches before the close of the current calendar year – a point rejected by a senior provincial government functionary. “This (failing to implement the extension programme) does not look good at the end of the day,” said the official privy to the matter.

BoK, said its officer, opened two new branches, including one each at Gilgit and Chitral, this year in February. Both of them formed part of its previous year’s extension programme. “Weather was the major impediment in opening these branches in 2012 so SBP was contacted to get some extra time which it consented to,” said the senior banker.

Officials attributed the delay this year to some organisational handicaps. The BoK’s top office fell vacant in March this year after its last managing director’s service contract expired at the completion of his three year service term.

“This year’s extension program now depends on the appointment of the new MD,” said an official.

The last provincial government initiated the move to fill the MD post and accordingly applications were invited.

However, the process came at a halt after the election commission of Pakistan imposed a blanket ban on fresh recruitments in the government departments and organisations in January 2013.

Later, the caretaker provincial government got permission from the election commission and proceeded with the process to hire a man for the job.

This time the move came to a halt after the provincial bureaucracy put off the decision after conducting interviews to shortlisted candidates on May 19, 2013. The decision has been put off to let the new provincial government come in.

Officials said the bank’s extension bank might undergo major changes in view of the new provincial set up and the composition of the coalition government. The portfolio of the provincial finance ministry has been given to Jamaat-i-Islami and the man made in charge of the ministry has worked on this post for well over four years.

Sirajul Haq, the provincial finance minister and a senior minister on JI’s quota in the provincial cabinet, has already spoken his mind about expanding BoK’s Islamic banking branches.

“The bank management is waiting to receive fresh guidelines from the minister after it would become clear whether the new government wants to grow the Islamic banking branches or the number of conventional branches,” said the officer.

It was in Mr Haq’s previous term as the provincial finance minister in the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal led provincial government when BoK began Islamic banking. It had caused the bank dearly. The bank saw its lone foreign investor withdrawing its investment.