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As Many As 210,000 Needy People Are Deprived Of BISP Assistance

Amma Laal Khatoon is a beneficiary of the Benazir Income Support Program—a government initiative for the needy people, she gets 5 thousand Pakistani Rupees in every three months.

She became a widow 9 years ago. She has five sons and two daughters. The sons are married and the total number of the extended family is 21 persons. At age 57, she is feeding her family through her hard work of washing dishes in homes. She lives in the Killi Ismail village in Quetta city.

“I am a Benazir Income Support Program beneficiary since 2010 when the flood affected our regions back in Jaffarabad, but the money is tiny in comparison to the utility list for my extended family,” says Amma.

The Poverty Score Card Survey, an initiative by the BISP, mentions at its website that there are 450,000 eligible beneficiaries for the program. Of these only 240,000 are paid – and 210,000 people mentioned as eligible are out of the BISP beneficiaries’ list.

The Poverty Score Card Survey was completed in 2009-10 according to the then census department population figures from 1998 which was recorded as 6,565,885. The same number changed by a 100 percent increase. It is now 12,344,408 as per the census of 2017. But the number of BISP beneficiaries has not increased. If calculated in the light of the 2009-10 Poverty Score Card Survey, the number of eligible beneficiaries for BISP pool would be 900,000 people. A fresh Poverty Score Card Survey may increase the number of the poor people.

“The BISP provides the amount in different phases round the year. Last year 114 billion Pakistani Rupees were transferred to the beneficiaries through a biometric system in a transparent way”, one of the BISP provincial body official says, while asking for anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press.

In the time of the Poverty Score Card Survey across the province, many eligible beneficiaries could not come into the survey because of the ongoing militancy in the Baloch regions of the province but the Pashtun speaking regions which are far away from the militancy were registered. “It is time for another broader and transparent survey to include the eligible beneficiaries,” the provincial BISP official says.

On the other hand, one of the provincial assembly’s elected members Nasrullah Khan Zairi, who represents his Quetta constituency as a member of Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP), says, “Pashtuns in the province are deprived of the BISP pool, because the then Pakistan People’s Party government favoured their workers which deprived the needy people from Pashtun populated regions”.

He adds that more than 150,000 Pashtuns’ CNICs are blocked, and this is how majority of the poor living in the Pashtun-populated districts are deprived of being in the BISP beneficiaries’ pool. “We are asking for an immediate survey through the Poverty Score Card across the province that will include the missing and needy families in the pool.”

A BISP beneficiary family from the Pashtun-populated district of Pishin, requesting anonymity, confirms that when a female family member could not receive the BISP cash through biometric mechanism, she was enlisted into the “deceased” category by the program officials. Once the BISP confirms that a beneficiary is not receiving their amount through the biometric system on time, owing to any hurdles, they are put in the “deceased” category – which would be a way to block the beneficiary’s CNIC through NADRA. The family here says that they had contacted the provincial office of the BISP, asking them not to categorize a living beneficiary into the deceased category, as this would block her and impact the process of her childrens’ CNICs in the future.

The provincial BISP official confirms:

“When a BISP beneficiary could not cash the transacted money through the biometric system in a six-month period, she would be declared deceased and the amount would be de-credited. If the amount is not received by the beneficiary owing to hurdles, then there is a way to mention the reason through application to the BISP office and after confirmation the beneficiary account would again be reaccredited.”

The BISP’s 30th board meeting was chaired by the program head and advisor to the Pakistani Premier Dr. Sania Nishtar. This meeting proposed a policy that the beneficiaries who could not get their money through biometric system would have their accounts seized and de-credited – and the same would happen to those who have “dubious” CNICs.

But the BISP policy laid out in the 30th meeting does not clearly show if people who could not reach the biometric centers for cashing the amount would also be listed as “deceased”. Neither does the policy show that those who are declared “deceased” would get their CNICs suspended because the BISP is working in close coordination with NADRA.

The BISP website states that 800,000 BISP beneficiaries’ accounts were suspended after the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf government came into office.

“Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf is not doing anything to benefit the people who live in poverty and misery. The Benazir Income Support Program, an initiative of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has been targeted through political victimization,” says Ali Madad Jattak, the provincial president of Pakistan Peoples Party for Balochistan.

Khial Kohistani, a Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) MNA elected from Sindh province echoes the PPP provincial president. “Pakistan Peoples Party are a political rival of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) but all of the reforms brought up by the earlier government were kept on by PML-N and same applied to BISP. It ran smoothly and its name was not changed”, says Kohistani.

“The PML-N government launched computerized survey, changed the mechanism to include more and more people in the beneficiaries’ pool and increased the amount per head”, says Kohistani.

Activist Saima Javed says, “The design of BISP is modern but the survey in 2009-10 missed some of the people and areas which are living in poverty. Also, the program makes married women eligible and not unmarried ones, which, again, is a drawback. Single women are playing their due role in the development of the country. We should include the transgender and unmarried women as well.”

Aurat Foundation Pakistan is a partner of BISP from 2012 to 2016 for the “Khushali” and “Waseyla e Taleem” education programs. Aurat Foundation’s Balochistan head Allauddin says, “Through the Waseyla e Taleem program we enrolled children of BISP beneficiaries, aged from 4 to 16. Earlier they had been out-of-school children. We partnered with BISP and enrolled children in Jhal Magsi, Nushki, Loralai and Barkan districts in a period of four years.”

“BISP can play a more important role amid the Coronavirus pandemic to reach the poor and needy people across the country, in particular the widows. But sadly it is faced by political victimization of the government itself, which would be resisted on every forum”, says Ali Madad Jattak.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf central information secretary Ahmed Jawad says that the government’s programs are initiated through taxpayer money. “Naming such programs based on the taxpayers’ money with individual’s names is totally unethical. Imran Khan created Shaukat Khanum through his own individual efforts and funds. If Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is willing to do so, he should initiate a program through Benazir Bhutto’s name.”

He says further that the BISP beneficiaries included grade 21 and grade 20 officials’ families, so the program must ensure that the money should go to poor and needy people in a proper mechanism.

Pakistan Peoples Party central information secretary Nafeesa Shah was contacted but she did not reply to the comments made by the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf representative.

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