Holding or floating shares: CM seeks summary over Bank of Khyber irregularities

Privatisation remains underlying concern to JI leaders, ministers

Our Correspondent July 01, 2015
The decision was taken during a meeting held at Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa House on Wednesday. PHOTO: EXPRESS


Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has directed the finance department to table a detailed summary regarding alleged irregularities in Bank of Khyber (BoK).

The decision was taken during a meeting held at Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa House on Wednesday. Minister for Finance Muzaffar Said, Senior Minister for Local Government Inayatullah Khan, Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, Minister for Education Mohammad Atif Khan and Chief Secretary (CS) Amjad Ali Khan were in attendance.

Though at the CM’s Secretariat, additional chief secretary and currently BoK Board of Directors Chairman Dr Hammad Owais Agha and BoK Managing Director Shamsul Qayyum were not in attendance.

The summary would be presented to the CM within a week.

The politics of banking

Wednesday’s meeting was hastily convened after a series of events amped up a brewing controversy over BoK’s board and shares.

A BoK BoD meeting on June 25 under the chair of Dr Hammad Owais Agha elected three private shareholders as ‘new’ members. One member was Maqsood Ismail who had already completed two terms.

On June 26, Said, who is also a Jamaat-e-Islami leader, stayed the decisions made in the meeting. He stated his main concern was the re-election of Ismail, whose company in Karachi, Ismail Industries, is a major shareholder in BoK, with 24% holdings. At the time Said told The Express Tribune, “Surrendering such powers to private shareholders [owners of a Karachi-based company] was controversial and disputed.”

According to an amendment ordinance in 2002 to the BoK Act of 1991, the government is to retain more than 51% shares till the time the shares are floated in the market. Many consider this BoK controversy to be part of a tug of war over privatising the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government’s bank.

The night of June 26, Owais Agha was replaced—under the finance minister’s directives—with Dr Ihsanul Haq, a retired civil servant. According to the act of 1991, the chairman of the board has to be nominated by the government from among the directors.

CS Amjad was quick to reverse the decision, likely under the authority conferred by the CM, on Tuesday, drawing the ire of Said. The minister rang up Khattak and the two agreed to discuss the issue at Wednesday’s meeting.

The JI approach

The JI has time and again pushed for a review of the bank’s situation and called for a change of hands. Haq has remained a long-time JI associate and his reinstatement makes matters sour for the party.

During Khattak’s iftar dinner hosted in honour of coalition leaders on Tuesday, the issue was brought up repeatedly. JI chief Sirajul Haq, Inayatullah and Minister for Health Shahram Khan Tarakai were also in attendance.

When approached for a comment, Said maintained the summary will be presented within a week.

“The summary will focus specifically on the June 25 board meeting,” he told The Express Tribune. Refusing to elaborate further, he said Khattak would take the final decision once the summary is tabled.

Citing the example of Ismail, he said the industrialist had already completed two terms and he needed a break of at least three years before occupying a seat again. “On such grounds, the June 25 meeting has no standing.” He stressed on the party’s stance of saving the bank from privatisation and not surrendering its managerial and financial reins to private parties.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2015.