The American Bankers Association accused the Federal Home Loan Bank Board yesterday of being protectionist and described the agency's chairman, Richard T. Pratt, as being shortsighted in advocating regulations that would favor the savings and loan industry.

The ABA was sharply critical of Pratt for remarks Tuesday in which he pledged to seek a suspension of a decision by federal regulators that would allow financial institutions to pay unlimited interest rates on Individual Retirement Accounts and Keogh plans starting next month.

A proposal to authorize the so-called "wild card" certificates was adopted by the Depository Institutions Deregulation Committee at its last meeting.

Pratt said he favors certificates pegged to money-market rates with perhaps a premium of one-half to a full percentage point to avoid high interest rates and a drain on deposits by persons switching to higher yielding securities elsewhere.

ABA President Llewellyn Jenkins said Pratt's pledge to attempt to persuade the DIDC to reverse itself is misguided.

Jenkins urged Pratt to allow S&Ls to compete. They must face the future, he declared, and "not bury their heads in the sand."

Jenkins said: "This action won't protect the thrifts. It will be a ball and chain that cripples their ability to compete against Merrill Lynch, Sears, Prudential, money-market mutual funds, credit unions and other financial services companies that are unaffected by the DIDC decisions."

Jenkins, who is also vice chairman of Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co. of New York, observed that the U.S. League of Savings Associations, which represents more than 4,000 S&Ls, predicted earlier this week that IRAs "should provide a significant boost to the savings and loan business."

On the other hand, Jenkins said, Pratt's "protectionist attitude" would cause savings institutions "to miss the market" at a time when they need an increase in the flow of funds.

"Look what has resulted so far from government interest-rate controls on depository institutions," Jenkins declared. "Money-market mutual funds now have combined assets of more than $165 billion, and there has been an explosion of new competitors into the financial services arena, from Texaco to the American Can Co. How have the thrifts benefitted from this?"