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Senate Panel Passes Amendment Bills on Commercial Agriculture, Banking Services and Financial Entities

The Senate Standing Committee on Finance has passed amendments to three significant bills that pertain to banking services, commercial and industrial agriculture, and secure transactions of financial institutions.

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The Committee members reviewed, in detail, the amendments proposed to the SBP Pakistan Banking Services Corporation Amendment Bill 2021, Agricultural Commercial and Industrial Purposes Amendment Bill 2021, and Financial Institutions (Secure Transactions) Amendment Bill 2021.

With regard to the Banking Services Corporation Amendment Bill 2021, the Deputy Governor SBP briefed the Standing Committee on the key objectives of the bill. He said the amendments were proposed to further strengthen the law. The Committee reviewed the amendment bill in detail and unanimously passed it.

Reviewing the amendment bill regarding loans for agricultural commodities and industrial purposes, the Senate body was informed that these amendments were aimed to further support the 1973 Act. The Committee was informed that farmers used to hold a passbook to secure loans from the bank, however, modern technology was now adopted to get e-passbooks issued.

It was further told that there was no legal cover, so these amendments were proposed to facilitate the farmers. The bill was unanimously passed.

The proposed amendments to the Financial Institutions (Secure Transactions) Amendment Bill 2021 were reviewed and were unanimously approved to the bill.

Chairman Senator Talha Mahmood said some information was sought from the Auditor General of Pakistan and this information was related to the details of institutions that refused the audit.

These institutions, he added, include: the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Labor Department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Ministry of Defense Production (POF Welfare Trust Fund), Ministry of Energy (Parco, Mari Gas Company, MOL Thal Block), PTCL, Telecom Foundation, Pak-China Investment Company, Pak-Kuwait Investment Company, Pak-Oman Investment Company, Saudi-Pak Industrial and Agriculture Company, Wah Noble Limited, Pak-Iran Investment Company, Pak-Brunei Investment Company, Pak-Libya Holding Company, Pak-Qatar Investment Company, Pak-Bahrain Investment Company, Pakistan Telecommunication Employees Trust, Ministry of Water Resources, Pakistan Railways, People’s Primary Health Initiative, Balochistan, KPOGDCL, National Bank of Pakistan, and DHA Karachi etc. The Chairman said that further details will be included in the agenda of the next meeting.

Senator Mohsin Aziz remarked that it was better for these institutions to consult and inform the Standing Committee. Senator Saleem Mandviwala said that after each budget, the Ministry of Finance, SBP, and FBR provided a report on how much the recommendations were implemented, how many have been included and how many have been rejected. Chairman Committee Senator Muhammad Talha Mahmood said that a report was given in the last meeting on which the members of the committee had expressed reservations. A report should also be provided on the reasons for the rejection of the budget recommendations.

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Regarding the hacking of the FBR system, the Standing Committee decided to call the IT head of FBR and have a briefing.

The matter with reference to the political exposure persons was also reviewed in detail. The Chairman and members expressed their displeasure and said that a bank account of a common man was opened in a week but there were problems for the parliamentarians. The Chairman said the Ministry of Law should make suggestions for improvement in this regard and present them to the Committee.

FBR officials told the Committee that notices were issued on time and the notices issued were to be decided within 120 days. The Chairman directed the FBR officials concerned to issue notices on merit. He said that people should not be harassed and details of the last two years should be provided to the Committee.

Expressing concerns over the rising value of the dollar against the Pakistani rupee, Senator Sherry Rehman said the authorities concerned should inform the Standing Committee as to why the Pakistani currency was depreciating day by day. Mr. Talha Mahmood said that the idea, when Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin took charge, was to increase the value of the rupee and the value of the dollar but now the situation was reversing. “Is it due to the changing situation in Afghanistan or is there some other reason? [This needs] to be informed in detail.”

Senator Mohsin Aziz said this was a very sensitive issue and should be discussed in an in-camera meeting.

The Senate panel held its meeting with Senator Talha Mahmood in the chair at the Parliament House on Tuesday. The meeting was attended by Senators Saleem Mandviwala, Sherry Rehman, Mohsin Aziz, Kamil Ali Agha, Sadia Abbasi, Faisal Saleem Rehman, and Abdul Qadir, along with Chairman Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Shaukat Hussain, Deputy Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Dr. Murtaza Syed, Chief Income Tax Policy (ITP), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and senior officials from the Ministry of Finance.

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