Bank Officers Could Face Jail Over Refusal to Offer Services

The bank officers refusing to open bank accounts, issue credit cards or other services to politicians will be penalized under a new law approved by Senate Standing Committee on Finance on Friday.

The Banking Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2021, proposes one-year imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1 million against any bank officer who discriminates against a citizen or a public representative. The law will come into force only after being passed by Senate and the National Assembly.

Officials from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Law and Justice and the State Bank of Pakistan opposed the amendment bill, saying that no money bill or any such amendment could be made without the consent of the federal government. The committee chairman Senator Talha Mahmood and members rejected this position and the bill was passed with a majority.

According to the amendments, refusing to open a bank account or issue a credit card would now be a costly affair for any bank official. The amendments give the power to the affected person to lodge a complaint against any bank official for adopting discriminatory behavior.

Senator Saleem Mandviwalla while talking to media after the meeting said that the amendments are crucial for the ease of doing business and no bank official can now discriminate against politicians or other influential people. He said that it was SBP’s weakness that it was not able to penalize the banks that take an indefinite period in opening bank accounts.

The committee also discussed the case of recovery of $250 million from the UK under the Economic Crimes Act. The committee sought a reply from the SBP within three days on the issue.

The finance committee also took notice of reviewing official prices of properties and valuation of properties in cities by FBR. The Real Estate Association representatives told the committee that the government should directly announce a 25 percent increase in property rates in budget every year. The representatives also demanded a reduction in the capital gains tax on the additional income because of an increase in the value of a property.

The committee expressed frustration over the absence of the Federal Board of Revenue Chairman and Governor SBP from the meeting and issued them attendance notices.

The meeting was attended by Senators Shehzad Waseem, Sherry Rehman, Saadia Abbasi, Saleem Mandviwalla, Musadik Malik, Kamil Ali Agha, Zeeshan Khanzada, Faisal Saleem Rehman, Haji Hidayat Ullah and senior officers from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Federal Board of Revenue, State Bank of Pakistan and Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan.

Faiz Paracha is a seasoned broadcast journalist with over 15 years’ experience in reporting and e...

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