Court allows sale of 19pc BoK shares

Peshawar High Court

PESHAWAR,: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday allowed the provincial government and Bank of Khyber’s management to sell 19 per cent shares of the bank and directed the State Bank of Pakistan governor and provincial chief secretary to ensure transparency and fairness in the process.

A bench consisting of Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth disposed of a writ petition against the possible BoK privatisation after the counsel for the provincial government and the bank, Athar Minallah, said sale of shares was not aimed at the bank’s privatisation.The chief justice had taken suo motu notice of the matter in Feb this year over an application of Bank of Khyber Officers Association president Haider Ali, who drew the court’s attention towards a public notice appeared in newspapers on Feb 5, 2012.

In the said notice, it was stated that the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is in advance stage of evaluating options for the transfer of management of Bank of Khyber to the private sector and has not only sought all necessary internal approvals for this purpose but also obtained an in-principle approval from the State Bank of Pakistan.The court converted the said application into a writ petition and stayed action on the public notice.Barrister Baachaa, lawyer for the petitioner, said in the guise of change of management, the government had been privatising the bank.He said the bank was a profit-making entity and therefore, its privatisation was beyond comprehension.

According to him, the bank’s its assets and capital have increased manifold over the years, while the number of its branches in the country has also increased.“According to the public notice, the management of the bank can be transferred to a party having minimum 28 per cent shares,” he said.Mr Minallah referred to several Supreme Court judgments and said the bank was empowered to sell its shares.He added that the government had no intention to privatise the bank and even after the sale of the 19 per cent shares, the provincial government would remain the major share holder.

He assured the bench that the status of the employees would remain unchanged and the government was ready to address apprehensions of the staff.The bench observed that after categorical statement made at the bar by the counsel for the government and the bank that only 19 per cent of the shares would be sold and that, too, in line with the prescribed procedure under the monitoring of the State Bank of Pakistan and therefore, receiving of any kickbacks in it was not possible.

The bench, however, observed that being a public asset, it was necessary to ensure that 19 per cent share should be sold out without transfer of management in a very transparent manner.It directed the State Bank’s governor to form a high-level committee to monitor the entire process to ensure compliance with the internationally-accepted international protocols.The bench issued directions for not selling shares in haphazard manner so that maximum benefit was achieved.The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary was told to monitor the process himself. – Dawn