By Kazim Alam, The Express Tribune
KARACHI: Federal Minister for Interior Rehman Malik on Monday announced that nationals of some countries will be exempt from the interior ministry’s security clearance requirement, which applied thus far to all foreigners serving as directors of companies operating in Pakistan.
Speaking at an interactive session organised by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Malik asked SECP Chairman Muhammad Ali to come up with a list of countries whose nationals should be exempt from the security clearance requirement in consultation with other stakeholders and forward it to the ministry within four days.
Almost all of the dozen or so questions raised during the interactive session were about the security clearances that foreign nationals working as directors have to get from thae interior ministry. The process can possibly take up to a year, according to businessmen and corporate lawyers present on the occasion.
For instance, foreigners are significant shareholders in all the three port terminals in Karachi. Still, they face security clearance issues whenever they want to visit their terminals, one participant remarked.
In response to repeated calls for either amending or withdrawing the pro forma that all foreign investors are asked to fill, Malik said a committee with representatives from the regulator, companies and corporate lawyers should prepare a revised pro forma that does not seek “irrelevant information,” such as the number of their siblings or property they own.
Interestingly, almost all participants representing foreign investors in the meeting were Pakistanis, although the primary agenda of the meeting was improving the mechanism for expeditious security clearance for foreign-funded businesses in the country.
The minister for interior also announced that regardless of their country of origin, a foreign national will not be bothered for as many as five years once he or she obtains security clearance. “Data management for security clearances for foreign directors will be moved to National Database Regulatory Authority (Nadra), as it is better equipped to deal with such issues than the ministry of interior,” Malik said.
Although he agreed in principle with nearly all demands of the businessmen present on the occasion, Malik vehemently defended the imposition of security checks on all foreigners regardless of their professional backgrounds. “There have been many cases in the past where visitors on business visas breached security and were subsequently deported,” he said.
Malik said he has barred Federal Investigation Agency officials from visiting businesses because it may be construed as harassment at the hands of a federal body. “I have extended maximum facilities to the business community in the last five years,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 26, 2013.