ISLAMABAD: Who is the new president of the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) after Ali Raza was removed on the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan? This question is haunting many minds today after Qamar Hussain was named as the new NBP president by President Asif Ali Zardari. Who is Qamar Hussain was explained by The News on January 7, 2009, when he was first inducted in the NBP.
A close friend and long-time financial assistant of President Zardari, Qamar Hussain, was first appointed as Chief Operating Officer of the NBP - a post which never existed before - and has been made chairman of three important companies owned by the NBP.
Though presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar then said that appointments were not made by the Presidency but by the government, NBP President Ali Raza had ruled out any political intervention in the appointment of Qamar Hussain.
Credible sources in the NBP and close circles of Asif Zardari insisted then that Qamar used to handle most of the financial matters of President Zardari as his close friend. However, another source close to the president had then claimed that Qamar Hussain was neither friend of the president nor he had ever handled Zardari’s finances. Yet after being named as new NBP president, this claim seems not too credible.
According to official documents of the NBP, available with The News, no position of the Chief Operating Officer (COO) ever existed in the bank, and it was created in early January of 2009. Qamar was asked to look after very sensitive information which before this was handled by more than one group heads of the NBP under a well-defined mechanism.
The then NBP president, Ai Raza, while talking to The News on January 6, 2009, had explained that the position of COO was created to sort out some administrative issues and that many international and even some national organisations have two top offices, one that of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the other of the COO.
“In NBP there was no position of COO, so we have created it in our bid to reorganise the bank in current changing global economic scenarios,” Ali Raza had stated.
The NBP president’s office circular No 20/2008 dated December 29, 2008, through which the first appointment of Qamar was made, reads: “Mr Qamar Hussain has been appointed as Chief Operating Officer & Head of Credit/Risk Management functions of the bank, directly reporting to the undersigned. Besides Credit Management Group, Risk Review & Industry Research Division and Economic Research Wing will also fall under his purview. Further, he is also appointed the Chairman of the Boards of the following subsidiaries;
1. NBP Exchange Company Limited, 2. NBP Capital Limited, 3. National Bank Modarba Management Company Limited.” In the words of a top official of the NBP, he, in his more than 25 years career in different banks, has never seen such an appointment order vesting so many powers under one position which is not that of the CEO.
However, NBP President Ali Raza then defended the point, saying that Qamar will head only one group out of total eight and will report to him. Ali Raza had refused to speak on any relation between Qamar and President Zardari and had claimed there was no political intervention whatsoever in the appointment of Qamar.
When asked that according to credible information the position of COO was secretly created in the country’s only bank under full control of the Government of Pakistan and that no advertisement was ever made before the appointment of such a great importance, Ali Raza had said such high-profile positions are never advertised and NBP’s head hunters department gives its suggestions.
He had explained that this department had recommended three persons, namely Saqib Mukhtar, Tariq Idrees and Qamar Hussain. “All were interviewed and finally Qamar was appointed,” Ali Raza had claimed.
He had maintained that he was never asked by President Zardari for the appointment of Qamar. “The last time I met Asif Zardari was in March in his F-8 sector residence, and we have not met after that,” Ali Raza had clarified.
Ali Raza had, however, admitted that he personally knew Qamar Hussain and had worked with him in the Bank of America, adding that besides working in the Bank of America, Qamar had also served in American Express and other leading financial institutions.
Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar was also asked about his version then and he had expressed total lack of knowledge about any such appointment, saying: “No, absolutely not. I don’t know about any such appointment.”
The first appointment letter of Qamar, praising him further had stated: “It is expected that the new structural arrangements will facilitate effective decision making, enhanced quality of assets and better coordination in all the related functional areas. Qamar Hussain has rich experience both in domestic and international markets in various areas of banking operations. We are confident that NBP will be further strengthened upon his joining the bank family. The organisational structure and the job description with the above mentioned changes will be re-framed by HRM&AG in consultation with the Chief Operating Officer accordingly. The aforesaid changes will take place with effect from January 1, 2009.”
The News had reported in January 2009 that by getting all these powers in the only state-owned bank, Qamar will be dealing with the changes in dollar rate and NBP shares, both having deep impact on stock exchange business and country’s economy, and had become the lone master of an important and critical segment of the country’s financial structure.