Govt, madrassas at loggerheads over freezing of bank account

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Pakistan
Monday, 07 September 2015

The freezing of over 200 bank accounts of unregistered madrassas last week has created a new controversy. Commercial banks started freezing these accounts on the instructions of the State Bank of Pakistan, in a bid to track sources of seminaries’ funds and choke all possible means of terror funding as envisaged by the National Action Plan against terrorism.

All banks have also stopped opening fresh accounts of seminaries until they get themselves registered under a new mechanism introduced by the religious affairs ministry.

“Madrassas have declined to reveal their funding sources or register under the new mechanism. This has complicated our task to monitor their accounts under the new policy, which is a key part of the National Action Plan,” said a senior official of the interior ministry.

He added that around 211 suspicious accounts, mostly owned by individuals affiliated with seminaries, had been frozen across the country under the NAP. “These accounts held an amount of Rs5 million,” he said, adding that the interior ministry also sealed 32 unregistered seminaries which were believed to be receiving foreign funding.

To resolve all issues representatives of all five schools of Islamic jurisprudence called on Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Yousaf and senior officers of the provinces and interior ministry last week but the meeting failed to reach an agreement, revealed the official while requesting anonymity.

“A private bank refused to open my madrassa’s account. I have been waiting for seven months. But finally, I received a big ‘No’. Though it [madrassa] is a registered one,” said Abdul Qadoos Mohammadi, the spokesperson for Wafaq-ul-Madaris Pakistan. If the government lets madrassas open accounts in their names, it would definitely make its job easier to scan their sources of funding, he added.

Representatives of the Ittehad-e-Tanzeemat-e-Madaris Pakistan (ITMP) – an umbrella of the five schools of thought – will meet the SBP governor to discuss the issue soon, he added. “If this issue is not resolved, representatives of seminaries will continue with the existing practice of using individual accounts of people working for them to deal with funds.”

However, Abid Qamar, SBP’s chief spokesperson said the central bank’s instructions, when it comes to opening a new account, do not discriminate against any individual or organisation. “Anybody, including institutions and organisations, that provides information mentioned in the criterion set by the SBP can get their accounts opened in any bank easily. We have a fair and open policy about it,” he told The Express Tribune.

A senior manager of a private bank in Islamabad said representatives of madrassas often did not provide the required details – source of funds, disclosure of assets, number of vehicles and other bank account information. “Usually, this remains the major reason [for not opening an account and] forcing us to avoid any suspicious activity,” he told The Express Tribune while requesting anonymity.

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