Bank loan facility only for a selected few
16 January, 2006
By Muhammad Rizwan Bhatti
On the back of every successful nation, there are its committed and devoted people who work hard collectively for the growth and prosperity of that nation. Nevertheless, it is considered that every nation stands on different pillars and journalism comes on number four.
Albeit the department of police across the country is commonly known for its bad conduct, it is a fact that this department has its unique importance as it is established to safeguard citizens and help them at their doorsteps.
The lawmakers, judiciary and the lawyers also have their vital role in providing justice to masses and if any nation ignores the basic necessities of any one of them, the other shortest and simplest way to fulfill needs is corruption.
The doors of corruption are open to anyone anywhere. If we want corruption to be uprooted, we would have to open all the right ways for a person through which he could get his rightful benefits.
These days, when the gap between necessities and earning of a common man has widened, a common way to fulfill one`s needs is getting loans from any financial institution, mainly banks. But unfortunately, banks have initiated a practice not to issue loans to lawyers, policemen and journalists.
Sohail Rafique, 37, a photojournalist associated with a leading newspaper of the country, wanted to renovate his home. The best and quickest possible way for him to get the desired amount was easy loan from a bank Sohail had come across an advertisement published in his newspaper that attracted his attention. The advertisement was of Pakistan Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation (PICIC) bank, offering loans on easy installments.
Sohail was confident that he could fulfill the bank`s requirements easily. He also had been covering PICIC`s functions and personally knew senior officials of the bank, so he got the application form and submitted it with all the required details.
After a week, the bank`s management asked him to submit more documents and after that suggested him to wait, saying his case was being processed. After a few more days, a bank official apologized to him and said he could not get loan. However, he did not mention the reasons.
When asked repeatedly, the official told the photojournalist that his bank`s policy did not allow mediapersons to enjoy loans. Everyone knows about journalists` contribution towards the promotion of any organization. They always write for the rights of general public and play an important role in solving public problems, but on the other hand they are also facing some.
At a time when the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has introduced and implemented banking reforms, journalists have been blacklisted by the banks and are denied loans and other facilities offered by different banks all over the country.
The case of Sohail Rafique is one among many. Several other journalists have complained that the local and foreign banks have refused them loans, credit cards, and housing, consumer and car financing facilities.
Despite the fact that the SBP had already directed all the banks that everyone who fulfilled their requirements could get loan, all the banks have imposed an invisible ban on giving loans to people belonging to specific professions.
The local and foreign banks, including National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB), Allied Bank of Pakistan, United Bank of Pakistan (UBL), Pakistan Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation (PICIC), Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), Union Bank and ABN Amro Bank, have planned their policies in such a way that they have mentioned clearly that which sectors and persons are not allowed to avail bank loan facilities. However, the respective managements of the banks do not issue a refusal in written or in the form of a document that could tell us that a person cannot get loan due to certain reasons.
To this effect, the banks have also prepared a list which helps a banker take decision whether to issue loan to a person or not. In these lists, some specific professions and sectors have been partially or completely banned. Those partially banned can enjoy the bank facilities to some extent, but others cannot even have a credit card. Journalists, police official and lawyers are considered ill famed professionals who cannot utilize bank facilities like loans.
A source in ABN Amro said the top management of the bank had directed officials that loan to builders, land lords, main power supplying agencies, estate agents and politicians must not be issued without prior and proper permission from the head office.
During his in-house training, he said, they received an instruction on plain paper never to entertain policemen, journalists and lawyers while issuing credit cards.
There is no any specific reason why banks do not issue the loans to journalists because when banks give the loan, they always hold something as security. For instance, if someone applies for house loan, the chances of bank fraud shrink to almost nothing as the bank holds the original documents of the property until that person finally pays the outstanding dues.
There are also some areas of Karachi that have been blacklisted by banks and the people of these areas could not enjoy loans like house financing and car financing. These areas included Nazimabad No.3 & 5, Lyari, Gulbahar, New Karachi, Surjani Town, Orangi Town, Korangi, Gadap, Agara Taj Colony, Shershah, Baldia Town, Liaquatabad, Azizabad and Mehmoodabad.
A banker, while talking to Paktribune , said: "I don`t know the specific reasons why our bank has declared certain professions and areas blacklisted, but as far as my knowledge is concerned one main reason to blacklist journalists, policemen and lawyers is that they can tactfully handle the unjustified policies of the banks."
He said since journalists, advocates and policemen knew very well about banking laws and policies, a bank could not play any games with them. "A bank also does not give loan to those who do not have their life`s surety and due to the risky professions, they could die anytime and in that case the outstanding amount of the bank could get stuck up," he further said.
While talking to a journalist, the then Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Dr Ishrat Hussein had dispelled the impression that any instructions had been issued by the central bank to allow commercial banks to blacklist any residential area or profession. Since the banking sector is there to cater for every citizen, it could not be said that policemen, lawyers and journalists are blacklisted, and according to banking laws, these people were entitled to all facilities offered by any bank operating in the country, he said.
However, Dr Hussein said, if any citizen had complaints about the dealing of any bank, he must immediately contact the office of banking ombudsman, and since this department was independent, it had taken actions against several banks.