Pakistani Banks freeze thousands of accounts

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Azhar Bukhari

LAHORE: The commercial banks all over the country on Tuesday froze accounts of thousands of their clients who had obtained duplicate CNICs from NADRA but failed to submit the same to their respective banks.

According to sources, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) had issued a circular to all commercial banks, directing them to freeze all the accounts immediately which lack complete identification documents. The circular had stated that stern action would be taken if SBP found any doubtful account being operated by any commercial bank.

The sources further revealed that intelligence agencies had reports that money was being transferred through secret bank accounts for extremism and militancy. Keeping these reports in view, the SBP had asked private banks to complete each and every identification document of their clients and freeze the accounts till the holders of such accounts submit required documents.

Following the SBP’s instructions, private banks froze more than 50,000 accounts. Under the move, no amount can be deposited or withdrawn from such accounts. In the provincial capital, hundreds of cross cheques could not be cashed as the accounts were frozen.

The sources said there are more than 200,000 to 300,000 account holders in the country who have not submitted copies of their duplicate CNICs. They added 5-7 million account holders have provided wrong/fake postal addresses or have changed their residences but could not informed the banks.

According to a rough estimate, more than Rs 150 million are lying in the frozen accounts and further 50,000 accounts could be blocked in the coming days.

A panic was observed among people after they came to know that their accounts could be closed or frozen. However, a bank manager on the condition of anonymity said the money in the frozen accounts was safe as it could be reactivated after providing the required documents. He added the accounts would be reactivated after verification of CNICs from NADRA which could take one or two days.

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