Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to launch the working of country’s integrated bourses, to be known as Pakistan Stock Exchange, on Monday. But the way the law enforcement agencies, namely the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) are taking action against the country’s leading businesspeople for doing something over five years ago there will be none left.
Tackling endemic corruption was the excuse when the former Ehtesab Bureau was launched. Similarly, the Army coup in October 1999 was aimed at uprooting this disease. Some leading businessmen were detained in the cold night of December 31st, 1999, for not paying off their bank loans, although non-performing loans (NPLs) were as old as the banking system itself.
It soon dawned on the Army brass that it did not have the wherewithal needed to tackle the menace of corruption. A committee of experts was formed at the top level which could not be by-passed when cases against businessmen would be referred to NAB.
The central bank – State Bank of Pakistan launched – ‘Scheme 29’ to get the economy going. It seems now that we have once again gone back into time. Orders were passed that brokers could not be picked up without first a reference to Karachi Stock Exchange and the Apex Regulator, Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).
If the politically-appointed people have lost taxpayers money, a firm action certainly needs to be taken. If orders in relation to guidelines for investment from the top were flouted – then hauling the politically-appointed responsible is indeed needed. But taking action on the basis of an advisory report and that too with a disclaimer to independently undertake valuation prior to investment is needed is excessive to say the least. Similarly, taking action on the basis of a right issue exclusively meant for foreign nationals would indeed not be correct.
‘Pump-and-dump’ has indeed happened on bourses. But it is the responsibility of SECP that has real time data as well as technical knowledge to evaluate such scams and take appropriate actions to stop this menace.
It increasingly appears that the Finance Minister, who is said to be endeavouring to improve the investment climate, and the Interior Minister are not on the same page. Therefore, the Prime Minister needs to intervene and develop a mechanism where both his ministers and departments under them co-ordinate with one another prior to any action under law.
There are good officers within NAB and FIA; however, the investigative skills needed to catch white collar crimes appear to be missing. Forensic audit is a specialized skill which majority of tax auditors lack, let alone investigators who can catch only those people who are found involved in cases of petty theft and bluecollar crimes.
Heavy handedness and playing to the gallery through release of selective tidbits will not stand in court. So let us stop slapping our own face red because as it is we sorely lack investment which can put teeming millions to work. Inaction can lead to severe consequences.
Source: Business Recorder