Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar on Thursday revealed that the government has decided to exclude ‘non-deserving’ people from the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) in a bid to introduce ‘transparency and merit’.
A day earlier, Dr Nishter had shared in a post on Twitter that the federal government had given approval for removing 820,165 BISP beneficiaries.
“Using forensic data analysis, we found that they [the beneficiaries] were ineligible for [income] support based on the criteria,” she had tweeted. She had claimed that the exclusion would save Rs16 billion annually.
I wish to thank the Cabinet for approving my proposal: exiting 820,165 @bisp_pakistan beneficiaries. Using forensic data analysis, we found they were ineligible for support based on the crtieria below. This translates into saving of PKR 16 billion for the government annually. pic.twitter.com/diwEzQ1IGq
— Sania Nishtar (@SaniaNishtar) December 24, 2019
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Dr Nishtar today announced that around eight hundred thousand people have been removed from the programme “to give space to deserving people”.
Dr Nishtar said that the measure has been taken to secure the rights of the more deserving.
“The entire procedure for inclusion in BISP has been made apolitical,” she assured.
“10 years ago, BISP beneficiaries were decided through a survey. From now, beneficiaries will be selected using data from NADRA,” she added.
BISP beneficiaries have been receiving Rs5,000 per quarter since 2011, she shared.
Speaking about the criteria for those who do not qualify for BISP, Dr Nishter said they included those who have travelled abroad once or more than once; have one or more vehicles registered against the names of BISP beneficiaries; and or those who incur an average monthly bill of more than Rs1,000.
“Employees of the government, Railways, Post Office and BISP and their spouses do not qualify for BISP either,” she added.
Those who have applied for passports via executive centres or whose spouses have applied for passports via executive centres and have three or more family members who have applied for a Computerised National Identity Card with an executive fee also do not qualify for the programme.
BISP was launched in 2008 by then-prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani on the advice of former president Asif Ali Zardari. The programme’s name was a tribute to former premier Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007.
‘Another u-turn by govt’
Responding to Dr Nishtar’s press conference, Sindh government’s spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said the BISP programme helped to empower women and the deserving.
“This decision [to exclude the people] is unfortunate. I feel the under-served will come under fire because of this decision,” Wahab said. “This is another u-turn by the government and I condemn it.”
“I urge the prime minister to take back the decision,” he added.