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LAHORE: Despite concerns raised by the State Bank of Pakistan, the provincial government is likely to reappoint Naeemuddin Khan as Bank of Punjab (BoP) president for a period of one year.

The finance department had requested the SBP last month to conduct a Fit and Proper Test (FPT) of five candidates under section 11(1) of the BoP Act-1989 after a selection committee shortlisted them by interviewing 120 applicants.

“I am directed to inform you that the chief minister constituted a committee for the appointment of a new president for the BoP. The committee shortlisted Syed Ahmad Iqbal Ashraf, Tahir Yaqoob Bhatti, Akbar Hasan Khan, Naeemuddin Khan and Kausar Iqbal Malik,” reads a Nov 13 letter sent by the finance department to the SBP.

“Further, it has been decided that before forwarding the above names to the provincial cabinet for final selection, the SBP will be requested to conduct FPT of the aforementioned candidates,” the letter, written by Bilal Hasham, Deputy Secretary, Resource-II, Finance Department, said.

The SBP in response informed the department about its observations/comments. “Being a regulatory authority, the SBP doesn’t involve in selection/hiring process of any president/CEO of a bank/DFI at any stage. Therefore, under the relevant provisions of laws, rules and regulations, it is the responsibility of the competent authority to appoint/finalise a candidate for the position of president, BOP,” states the SBP letter written to the finance department on Dec 12.

While reviewing credential of the candidates in the light of the requirement of the FPT’s criteria, the SBP raised concerns over Naeemuddin Khan’s profile. “He (Mr Khan) is already 65 years and 7 months old and will attain the age of 70 years before expiry of his full term if reappointed as president. Further some observations have been raised on his performance and professional conduct during his present tenure as president. However, no enforcement action has been taken,” reads the SBP letter.

While commenting over the other candidates, the regulator also expressed concerns over Syed Ahmad Iqbal Ashraf. “The proposed president/CEO should be between 40 to 70 years of age. Mr Ashraf will attain the age of 70 in April 2020 while the BoP act specifies a term of five years for a president.

Further, some observations were raised on his performance and professional conduct as NBP president during 2014-17. Moreover, remarks passed by the Chief Justice of Sindh High Court against Mr Ashraf on Sept 29 in a court case No.D-2025 of 2017 (Syed Ali Raza versus Federation of Pakistan & others) may also be seen,” it explains.

The regulator observed Tahir Yaqoob Bhatti a 56-years old candidate, possessing requisite education and experience for the BOP’s top slot.

On Akbar Hasan Khan, the SBP observed: “There appears significant overdue amount in the CIB reports of M/S Galadari Cement Gulf Ltd as of Oct 31 where Mr Akbar hold the position as an elected director reported in CIB reports. In terms of clause (iii) of section 3 of SBP’s FPT criteria, the proposed appointee/president shouldn’t be in default of payment of dues owed to any financial institution and/or default in payment of any taxes in individual capacity or as proprietary concern or any partnership firm or in any private unlisted/listed company.”

On Kausar Iqbal Malik, the regular said the FPT criteria requires president/CEO to be a career banker having at least five years of experience at senior level as EVP and above or equivalent ie group head of financial/business line in a bank and possess expertise and skill set to undertake responsibilities of the position effectively and prudently. “As per information available with us, Mr Malik lacks the requisite experience for the position. Further some observations were raised on his professional conduct while he was holding the post of group head (HRM & AG) in NBP,” reads the letter.

The regulator also told the provincial government that the contents of its reply/letter may not be construed as formal clearance/approval of the SBP in favour of any candidate. “Accordingly, once the candidate is finalised, the BOP shall be required to obtain SBP’s formal clearance for its president by furnishing requisite documents/information afresh,” it concludes.

Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2017