ISLAMABAD: The Standing Committee of Senate on Finance on Tuesday said that nomination papers filed for the upper house of parliament by former finance minister Ishaq Dar were illegal as bank officials failed to satisfy the committee about opening of his new account after he had been declared absconder by an accountability court.

Despite hectic efforts by Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to forestall a discussion over the bank account, the Senate standing committee, chaired by Senator Saleem Mandviwala, noted that the National Bank of Pakistan opened the absconder’s account.

As discussion progressed over the agenda item related to the bank account recently opened in an NBP branch in Lahore, the committee was briefed about the systems available to restrict absconders from opening bank accounts.

Bank officials fail to satisfy committee over opening of new account after ex-finance minister was declared absconder

The bank officials explained that options were available with the people living abroad to open their account. However, they said, absconders could be stopped from opening account in a bank if their names were traced.

Minister of State for Finance Rana Afzal and Senator Farooq supported the bank officials’ explanation and insisted that absconders could open bank accounts. Then they asked the committee chairman if he knew the name of the person whose bank account had been opened ‘improperly’. Senator Mandviwala said they opened Ishaq Dar’s bank account that he required to file his nomination for contesting the Senate elections after the court ordered seizing of all his bank accounts.

“Either Ishaq Dar is not known to the bankers or the court directives did not reach the National Bank regarding seizure of his existing accounts,” said the chairman of the standing committee on finance.

After the disclosure of the name, Mr Afzal stopped participating in the discussion. However, Senator Farooq kept telling the finance committee not to discuss the issue. With no further explanation coming from the NBP officials, she said it was a political matter.

Usually banks were reluctant to open accounts of elected representatives and government officers, the committee members noted.

Senator Muzaffar Hussain Shah of the PML-Functional told the finance committee that a bank manager refused to open his account as his thumb impression did not match the one needed for biometric verification. He said he could not have filed his nomination for the recent Senate elections if the bank had not eventually agreed to open a special account with certain conditions.

The committee noted that several candidates, including Nuzhat Sadiq, had complained about the reluctance of banks to open accounts for them just because they were politicians. Senator Mandviwala said a bank refused to open his son’s account as his father was a senator. “But how come the NBP opened an account for Ishaq Dar who has been declared an absconder by the court of law?” he asked.

The committee also discussed a complaint lodged by some banks and businesses that the State Bank of Pakistan was allegedly discriminating against them by not granting them permission to restructure their loans.

Senator Mandviwala said: “We have been asking you to give us reasons why restructuring of loans for a few companies have been declared risky by the SBP. But there was no reply.” It was finally decided that the SBP would share the details with the state minister for finance or hold an in-camera briefing, because the details were not public information.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2018

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