There were times when people and families kept valuables at home for safety. They kept ‘safe’ boxes, but then the thieves developed their techniques and found ways to crack the safe boxes. If anyone in the house resisted, he or she was injured or killed. But for the thieves it was messy and risky and the traces could lead the police to them. Thus, some crooks inducted servants or informers to inform the dacoits of an opportune time to commit the dacoity. On the other hand, several people kept dogs and guns and tried to save themselves from the thieves. Realising the need to keep valuables safe, the banks introduced ‘lockers’ to replace domestic ‘safes’. Almost every family kept jewelry and extra cash in the bank ‘lockers’. All this was working well although sometimes breaking into lockers was reported. People mostly kept their cash in bank accounts, which could be personal or business accounts. The transactions from the accounts were generally considered safe. It was good for a long time, but not anymore. Repeated reports have been in the newspapers about bank frauds. All kinds of frauds. Most common are ATM frauds, special technologies have been developed by gangs for this purpose. Criminals have invented ways to steal the pin code. These techniques vary from installation of hidden cameras to an installed ‘reporter’ which is hidden and connected with a distant computer. There is another group of thieves which specialize in copying signatures. Huge amounts not just in millions, much more than that is miss-appropriated. The scale is such that it cannot happen without the involvement of some functionaries in the banks. The rumour is that in Islamabad some specialists are available to forge signatures. Also consider money laundering, up to billions. This is a large scale fraud against the government directly. Can it been done without the involvement of a bank functionary? It is not just hear say or sensationalism. I have personally experienced this. My signatures were forged and my savings of about seven lakhs were cleaned out. All legal actions have been taken, 6 years have passed, FIA and courts and the banks have been approached but to no avail. Banks, and all others, pay little attention to such a ‘small’ amount. For them it is ‘small’ not for me, and a crime is a crime for all, small or big. For me these were savings of years. The fact remains that the account holders are at risk. The risks include fraud, money laundering and hacking. Many countries protect their customers by providing insurance coverage to a certain limit. Such protected limits cover mostly the accounts of common men and families. In Pakistan, account insurance will be the best way to restore the common man’s confidence in the banking system In my case, the FIA even caught one of the two culprits but let him go until they caught the second one. What can I expect from law enforcing agencies? In front of the FIA investigator, some workers indicated that a bank employee was involved but the FIA officer did nothing. What does all this indicate? Your account is not safe. Especially, if it is not a very active account. I believe frauds cannot happen if banks are vigilant. Our bankers, some of them, are either failing in their duty or they are intentionally involved and getting a share of the loot. What is the role of the State Bank? The State Bank of Pakistan issues instructions to commercial banks, and among these, there are some intended to safeguard the account holder’s interest. Not much attention is paid to these circulars. They sit in the files it seems. It is a sad indication of the fall of professional standards and sense of responsibility. At all levels only ‘formalities’ are completed. On ground improvements do not take place. It is an unfortunate part of the general deterioration of working standards and professional responsibilities. It is a natural consequence of the policy of appointing ‘favourites’ and not the competent. When the whole system is based on pleasing the ‘boss,’ then services deteriorate. The rewards don’t come from service to customer; they come from service to the ‘boss’ by following his valid or invalid desires. The fact remains that the account holders are at risk. The risks include fraud, money laundering and hacking. Many countries protect their customers by providing insurance coverage to a certain limit. Such protected limits cover mostly the accounts of common men and families. In Pakistan, account insurance will be the best way to restore the common man’s confidence in the banking system. If banks had this cover, then people like me would have been compensated and saved from running from pillar to post seeking remedies. It is most irresponsible that the bank’s account holder who relies on the security and service of a banking institution is left alone to run for recovery and/or face hardships. The large scale bank frauds of recent months and years need to be looked from another angle as well. Particularly because criminals of foreign origin are also involved and advanced technologies are employed. Particularly, in breaking through the ATM systems. I say this as my thoughts turn to the COAS recent statement on ‘hybrid’ conflict. What is the essence of terrorism? It intends to create insecurity, lack of faith in law and order in a country and thus in its government’s ability to provide safety. Look at large scale bank frauds. Don’t these serve the same purpose without physical bloodshed? Losing one’s savings of years, as in my case, causes the same sense of insecurity and lack of faith as a bomb blast at a distance. I think the financial insecurity caused by different kinds of frauds through bank accounts, particularly when done at a large scale, as done recently, is terrorism. It should be treated as terrorism and the affected should be compensated forthwith to restore their confidence in the banking systems. The writer is Pakistani theatre, film and television actor, scholar, public speaker, columnist, teacher and dramatist Published in Daily Times, November 23rd 2018.