An official of the central bank on Thursday revealed to a parliamentary committee that commercial banks issued around $3billion worth of loans to over 600 businessmen at zero markup rate during the rule of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

“Banks offered these loans at concessionary rates during the pandemic,” the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) deputy governor told the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance.

“The facility was aimed at encouraging investment during the economic slump caused by the coronavirus. We were told that the economy would further slow down if the facility was not introduced,” he said, adding that the loans were issued after reviewing profiles of the applicants.

The chairman of the committee, Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, noted that individual businessmen received loans worth Rs5 billion to Rs15 billion to import machinery but the machinery was never used.

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“Such facility should have been offered to farmers and small businesses,” he said.

Committee member Bargees Tahir said the committee must be told as to who has been looting the country. He demanded that the SBP present details of the 600 people who received these loans.

Another member of the committee, Dr Nafisa Shah, asked on what conditions the commercial banks offered those loans. The SBP official replied that as per the banking rules, these details are confidential which the banks are not obliged to share.

The chairman asked the SBP to provide details of the people who received loans at a concessionary rate. The SBP has a list of these businessmen. This list must be shared with the committee,” he added.

The SBP official said he was ready to brief the committee on the loan facility in-camera.

Minister of State for Finance Ayesha Ghous-Pasha suggested that the committee convene an in-camera meeting to get a briefing on the loan facility. The committee chairman later asked the SBP to give an in-camera briefing to the committee.

Sheikh also expressed his annoyance over the absence of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. He said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led coalition government has been in power for the past one year but the finance minister has never attended any meeting of the committee.

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