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October 4, 2017

MPs panel asks ministry to look into negative fallout of Riba on society


October 4, 2017

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel after sensing the severe negative fallouts of Riba (interest) on society, asked the Finance Ministry to look into it and reply in a month to the committee as to send it to the Senate for further action.

It is worth mentioning that Senator Sirajul Haq of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) had introduced this private members’ bill in Senate on Aug 28, 2017 which provides for prohibition of the business of private money-lending and advancing loans transactions based on interest in Islamabad capital territory. The Senate then referred it to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs and Narcotics Control for consideration and report.

The Senate committee that met here with the Senator Saleem Mandviwalla in the chair expressed serious concern over the state of affairs of the government’s various relevant federal ministries’ [interior, finance and law and justice division] as they were unwilling to own handling the bill and its responsibility.

Earlier the Finance Ministry replied to the committee in written that it [the bill] does not relate to the Finance Ministry, however latter the official of the Law Division explained to the committee that it relates to the Finance Ministry.

Senator Sirajul Haq while putting the bill before the committee said that Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa [KP] have passed such bills, so it must be also passed for Islamabad capital territory.

While showing the ugly face of this business to the committee, he said that especially in KP, ‘Riba’ [interest] on private lending has pushed many well-off people to the extent of becoming the bonded labours and personnel servants of the lenders. Many have lost everything to these lenders and still owe to them due to which they have left the province. After passage of the bill in the province, to some extent, the situation is in control and police have been education the masses and also taking actions.

On another call attention moved by Senator Hidayat Ullah regarding pending approval of 7500 sanctioned new posts in FATA, especially in health and education sector, senior officials of the Finance Ministry, SAFRON and FATA Secretariat failed to satisfy the committee and were just trying to shift the responsibility on each others. On April 24, 2017 they held a meeting on the issues, but since then no action was taken and still these posts are lying vacant as the Finance Ministry was not ready to give the approval. Financial outlay of these posts is Rs1.6 billion.

Senator Mandviwalla said, “This indicates the inefficiency of your bureaucracy, you cannot communicate with each other to settle down the issue.”

Senator Kamil Ali Agha said, “It indicates that how much the government is serious in FATA’s wellbeing and development.” Hidayat Ullah said that schools and other health facilities built by previous governments are lying unutilised due to non appointment of required staff. During this government, not a single school has been built in FATA,” he added. The committee gave a 15 day time to the Finance Ministry to have meeting with the FATA secretariat and SAFRON to settle the issue and report to the committee.

Senator Mandviwalla asked the finance ministry that why Pakistan has not yet become the member of Egmont Group to combat money laundering and terror financing, while perception is emerging that Islamabad was resisting to become its member.

DG Financial Monitoring Unit, Syed Mansoor Ali told the committee that we are willing to be member of it, as Pakistan has applied in 2012 for its membership, the group also did onsite inspection in Pakistan but in Dec 2015, the application was rejected. After completing the group’s requirements, we have applied again and in December this year or in January next year, it will hold onsite inspection that whether we are meeting the basic threshold and other legal requirements.

Senator Mandviwalla asked the official that since countries like Afghanistan, Sudan, Sri Lanka, India and some others can qualify the criteria of the group, then why not Pakistan. How come they are there and we are not?

Mansoor Ali told the committee, “We have no problem to be member of it [Egmont group]. The US is our sponsor and it is not actively taking up our case.”

Latter a top official of the Finance Ministry sought that the ministry may be given time till November 15 this year to give final answer to the committee. And it was granted the time.  Chairperson of the Completion Commission of Pakistan (CCP) Ms. Vadiyya Khalil said that the competition law specifies collection of 3 pc fee and charges from regulators, but majority of them are not depositing it to the CCP. She said that only the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) was paying, while the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) were not paying it. The committee asked the Finance Ministry to compile a report of this issue and submit it to the committee in 60 days.