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SBP and foreign currency accounts

June 27, 2012

I AM a Pakistani-born British national. I have been visiting Pakistan for the last 10 years. For my expenditure in Pakistan, I bring adequate amount of British pounds. With the introduction of foreign currency account in Pakistani banks, I opened an account with Askari Commercial Bank, Blue Area branch, Islamabad.

While returning to the UK, I used to deposit all the balance foreign currency in my account. This way my saving in foreign currency account soared to thousands of pounds. I was happy that this small amount would be contributing, albeit, on a small-scale, to much needed foreign exchange requirements of Pakistan.

I am sure that most of the expatriate Pakistanis like me, who are estimated to be two to three million, have foreign currency accounts in banks and such combined saving would definitely be of some percentage of total foreign currency reserves of the country. Needless to say that profit on such accounts by the banks is negligible.

At the end of my recent visit to Pakistan, I went to my bank for some withdrawal from my foreign currency account to clear the debts. I was shocked, when the bank reported that my account has become dormant and I have to undergo some procedural formalities to revive my bank account.

The bank authorities informed that under the new instructions of the State Bank, every account becomes dormant, if no transaction is made during six months. I failed to understand the necessity of the issuance of such instructions.

Under these instruction, expatriates like me visiting Pakistan once a year, cannot maintain the foreign currency account operational. The only plausible explanation understandable to me was that the State Bank does not want the country to be benefited with small amounts like mine which becomes million, if not billion, collectively.

After fulfilling the procedural formalities, I decided to close my foreign currency account no. 00081300201370 in Pakistan and enchased balance of a few thousand of British pounds from my account which are now deposited in British banks. At least they do not make my account dormant, if non-operative, even for years. I am sure many like me would prefer to close their foreign currency accounts with Pakistani banks.

A. RAZZAK United Kingdom