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ISLAMABAD: Members of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance on Friday demanded that the State Bank respond to the committee’s queries regarding the Panama Papers, and took part in a heated debate on the status of the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).

“It has been over a year that we have been demanding a briefing by the banking sector regulator over Panama leaks,” Asad Umar of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) said.

“Similarly, I demand that the finance ministry clarify its stance on the status of the SECP chairman, as it is not giving a good impression in the corporate world that a man against whom an FIR has been lodged on a directive of the Supreme Court is heading a key regulatory body.”

Law ministry asked whether removing SECP chief is compulsory in light of apex court orders

Officials representing the finance ministry explained that the Panama Papers case was still in court, and MNA Talal Chaudhry of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz added that the apex court had told the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to register an FIR against the SECP head.

“There is no directive from the court to suspend Mr Zafar Hijazi,” said Mr Chaudhry.

Later, committee chairperson Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh directed the law ministry to present its opinion by July 17, on whether it was obligatory for the finance ministry to remove or suspend the SECP chairman.

Members of the committee took note of the finance minister’s absence from their meetings and agreed that ministers should be requested to attend them without fail.

Separately, the committee considered the Microfinance Institutions (Amendment) Bill 2017 and directed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to properly advertise ongoing loan schemes for disabled people launched by the government.

They recommended that the SBP issue necessary directions to all banks to ensure disclosure of loan details to disabled people on a quarterly basis. The committee unanimously recommended that the Microfinance Institutions (Amendment) Bill 2017 be passed by the National Assembly.

The committee members also approved the Investment Corporation of Pakistan (Repeal) Bill 2017 and forwarded it to the National Assembly.

While discussing various difficulties being faced by exporters, industrialists and stakeholders, the committee directed that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the State Bank of Pakistan heads sit with the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industries president to solve the problems faced by exporters.

Stakeholders of the textile industry suggested that the government restructure the lending arrangement for the textile industry in lieu of the collateral provided by the stakeholders.

After a detailed discussion, the committee decided that a joint meeting of the NA Standing Committees on Commerce, Textile and Finance would be called in this regard.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2017