Pakistan’s Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety, Shazia Marri, has announced that the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) will cover one crore families. The minister’s announcement follows Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s directives to reinstate “eligible persons”.
Pakistan’s Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety, Shazia Marri said on Thursday that the government’s flagship cash-transfer programme, the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) would expand its outreach to eight million families till the month of June and then on will cover 10 million families.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had also given directions to reinstate “eligible persons” in the scheme. The previous Imran Khan government had removed 820,165 names from the BISP database, describing the beneficiaries as “undeserving”.
“Unfortunately the increased ratio of poverty, inflation and unemployment in the country has led to economic instability during last few years which require expansion of BISP to provide financial relief to the poor masses”, she told journalists.
To a question on re-inclusion of the expelled BISP beneficiaries, the federal minister said it was unfortunate that around 8,20,000 beneficiaries were expelled from the poverty reduction programme in 2019 without any verification or investigation, while giving an impression that they were ineligible and affluent.
Minister Shazia Marri said that beneficiaries were expelled on the basis of unjustified filters but those responsible during the previous government didn’t respond.
“I have decided after receiving briefing from the officials that those disqualified on the basis of unjustified filters including phone bill of up to Rs. 1000, making of urgent Passport and urgent CNIC, foreign travel etc. will be given a right to appeal”, she said.
“This decision of expelling BISP beneficiaries was taken without verification, investigation or giving them right to register complaint which is injustice”, she argued.
The BISP has collected the data of 34 million households, of which over seven million families are presently covered.
In a 2021 report, Pakistan’s Auditor General blew the lid off a pool of financial irregularities in the cash transfers, pointing out that thousands of family members of people employed in the government were benefiting from the programme.
The auditor general’s report pointed out financial irregularities in BISP to the tune of billions of rupees worth, even saying that the programme was hostage to charitable government employees and officials.
According to the audit report 2020-21, so far no recovery has been made from government employees and officers who have been taking money in the name of deserving people.
The auditor’s office had directed the BISP to recover the amount taken by government employees, following which the administration had recovered Rs. 900,000 from its officers alone.