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Date Posted: 21:34:52 08/30/07 Thu
Author: Javed

By Javed – 20 October 2006

Each government claimed easing the public life by simplifying the lengthy and complicated daily life office procedures. But in practice the life was made more difficult by those who were to implement these wishes of the Government. This is why whenever I hear such a slogan now I keep myself ready to face more hardship and expense. When Nawaz Sharif as Punjab Chief Minister raised a similar slogan immediately the sui gas authorities in his home town introduced a new condition that henceforth with application for a new connection the applicant would also need to attach a copy of his next neighbour’s paid gas bill. Recently a new Reforms Commission has been made under the chairmanship of ex Governor SBP Dr. Ishrat, the same Governor under whose tenure the bank profits to saving account holders went to minimum level, new services charges were introduced. I am shivering knowing about this commission.

The Federal Ombudsman since its establishment in 1982 was receiving complaints against Banks. The procedure was very simple. I myself filed many complaints, got relief in as much as that I got the new clauses included in the new Account Opening Form, amendment in some provisions of Foreign Exchange procedures/rules, standardization of receipt of share applications in Banks, order for issuance of bank pass books etc. A year back a separate banking ombudsman was established – what was the need of it at least I cannot understand. Does the authorities wanted to wrongly believe us that the Federal Ombudsman had failed to do proper job as far as banking complaints were concerned? To me Federal Ombudsman was doing a very fine job.

When in July 2005 the Banking Mohtasib was established I felt it would more facilitate the common man. I could not believe some of the rigid provisions provided in the procedure. It is a common knowledge that Government departments including the Banks hardly give any written reply to account holders or domestic clients queries. General Zia on complaint from an audience stated they (bureaucrats) do not given answer even to their fathers.

I addressed the Habib Bank Branch for about 2 years asking for non receipt of my six monthly statements. I wrote at least 6-8 reminders not to get even a single response. On the costly web system of HBL Head Office I filed my complaint with Head Office and repeatedly did this as reminders. Neither the Branch nor the Head Office cared to give any response.

On establishment of banking mohtasib I filed a complaint against the attitude of HBL Head Office which is more serious than non response by a Branch. I could not believe when I was advised that as per procedure I would first have to write (again) to the Bank again this time invariably stating in my letter to the Bank that “in case I did not get any response in 90 days I will approach the Banking Mohtasib”. I could not believe in this 21st developed century that my 2 to two and a half year writing to the bank had no value. Giving an additional 90 days time to the bank just for a response to me as far as domestic saving account holders are concerned is just a sympathetic pat for the banking bureaucracy. This reminds me of a very old article entitled Bureaucracy Again. I was also advised to attach a prescribed Complaint Form without which my complaint cannot be registered. The complaint form contains information about complaint’s name, address, bank name, account number, nature of complaint etc. To me this Form was superstitious requirement as all this information is invariably given in the writing complaint. I do not remember out of some 20-30 complaints against Banks from 1982 to 2000 I ever attached the similar complaint Form prescribed by the Federal Ombudsman. They did not insist though attaching of that Form also was a requirement with Federal Ombudsman.

We are in modernized word. Our IT Minister talking with US Ambassador in Pakistan stated introduction of computerization in government offices in Pakistan would not only ease the public life but would also change the attitude of bureaucracy. Is it so? Senior columnist Irshad Ahmed Haqqani stated that west today gives reply and solve citizens problems in minutes and hours on the web whereas we have ‘badened the shape of even of it?

As a common man I understand that Banking Mohtasib was established by the SBP and an appeal against any order of the Banking Mohtasib can be filed with the SBP. Taking the SBP as appealing authority, I recently highlighted to the SBP that giving a further 90 days margin to the bank in cases like domestic saving accounts holders whose problems only are non receipt of six monthly statement, late credit, non acceptance of utility bills, non issue of cheque books, hence this 90 days limit condition should be waived of. The answer from this appellant authority is not only interesting but also shows the attitude of todays web-loaded-bureaucracy towards common man. The Authority instead of replying me in a nice manner eg your suggestion was considered but it cannot be accepted at present, or thank you for your suggestion which will be considered at appropriate time etc the straight away reply was the Banking Mohtasib has not been established by SBP but under clause so and so under Companies Ordinance. This to me is answering banana to a question about mango.

When I raised complaints with Federal Ombudsman eg against some provision in Foreign Exchange procedures, knowing well the Mr. Justice Sardar Iqbal the first Ombudsman Pakistan to whom recently a DAWN article termed as “so far unmatched for ombudsman”, the SBP never gave answer that these provisions were provided under Ordinance so and so rather gave to the point answers (my requested amendments were made).

The other day a columnist well stated God has given special attention to we the Pakistanis to suffer, and suffering and keep suffering.

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