Long queues of customers were seen outside different banks across the country on Saturday, complaining about bad link, non-functional or out-of-cash ATMs (automated teller machines), non-payment of pension or poor service, as all commercial banks close for long Eid holidays from Tuesday.
As majority of banks in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of the country witnessed multiple issues ranging from bad link to cash shortage, hundreds of customers, including pensioners, had to return home empty-handed after hours of long wait.
BANKS CLOSE DOORS ON CUSTOMERS:
Banks had announced that they would remain open Saturday after a State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) notification ordered that cash be made available before Eid holidays. However, no schedule was observed for the closing time, as certain banks closed the door on customers at 2:00 pm, while others called it a day at 12:00 noon.
It may be mentioned here that the SBP had revised the timings of banks during the holy month of Ramzan and eased the bankers of long working hours.
ONLINE SYSTEM SUFFERS SLOWDOWN:
Nearly half of the branches of every bank were shut when the problem regarding the online link surfaced, denying cash transactions to customers using ATM cards and to those trying to get money out of their accounts through cheques. In some areas, banks even went out of cash and asked customers and pensioners to wait, compounding their problems.
Even though pensioners started lining up outside banks early in the morning, many of them could not receive the cash. Some of them even accused bank officials of demanding bribe from them in order to withdraw their pension.
Enraged over long wait time and non-payment, scores of pensioners staged protest demonstrations outside banks in Peshawar, Muzaffarabad and Lahore.
PENSIONERS TO BE ENTERTAINED BY MONDAY:
Later in the day, a spokesperson for the state-owned National Bank of Pakistan said all 1,400 branches were burdened on Saturday owing to the upcoming Eid and that all the pensioners would be entertained by Monday. He said the online link had been restored and branches of the bank would remain open till the last pensioner gets his pension.
Meanwhile, the SBP has advised all commercial banks to take necessary measures to facilitate the general public in order to ensure uninterrupted availability of ATM services on the occasion of Eidul Fitr.
INSPECTORS TO EXAMINE OPERATIONAL STATUS OF ATMS:
The SBP said that the ATM sites of commercial banks would be examined by SBP inspectors and verification teams of SBP’s Banking Service Corporation (BSC) field offices from July 1 to July 10 to verify their operational status.
“In view of the extended Eid holidays, banks have been advised to intimate SBP BSC field offices in advance about the extra cash that they may need so that adequate arrangements could be made for replenishing their ATMs during Eid holidays” it said.
Furthermore, banks will also make certain that in addition to ATMs, continuous services are also available on point of sale (POS) and other alternate delivery channels (ADC).
Banks have also been instructed to ensure that dedicated teams from commercial banks are available for timely resolution of ATM-related complaints; contact numbers of banks’ Helpline are prominently displayed on ATM vestibules and advertised in print media for the facilitation of the general public.
The SBP has already instructed all commercial banks to remain open on July 2 and 9. Commercial banks will accept financial instruments from their customers on July 2, 9 for normal clearing only and National Institutional Financial Technologies (NIFT) is advised to collect them from branches of commercial banks. All commercial banks will remain closed from July 5 to July 8.