As PPP leaders raised concerns over reports of a possible change in the name of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday stated that such demands by certain parties were simply "an opinion" and that he personally was not in favour of a change in name.
The foreign minister, while speaking to reporters in Multan, was quizzed over local media reports that the government is considering a change in the name of the BISP, a poverty alleviation programme named after slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Qureshi replied that certain members of the opposition in the Sindh Assembly, including members of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), MQM-P and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) had made a request pertaining to BISP to Prime Minister Imran Khan while he was visiting Ghotki on Saturday.
According to a report published by The News, sources said that a GDA leader had during a meeting with the prime minister said that the name of BISP should be changed, to which the premier replied: "BISP's name is being amended."
The foreign minister explained that some members of the opposition in the province had recommended that the name be changed. He said that they felt the programme had been "misused" by the PPP and its political activists, and that they also had raised "objections and concerns" to a survey that had been conducted under BISP earlier.
However, he said, the changing of the name is a legislative matter and a legal process must be followed in this case.
He described the opposition's demand as an opinion. "People can have opinions," he continued. However, he added, he is not personally in favour of changing the programme's name.
"I think that the work, not the name is looked at," he explained, adding that efforts should be made to do the work and help those the programme was launched for. He stated that the prime minister had said that a new survey would take place under the recently launched poverty alleviation and social benefits programme 'Ehsas'.
'Conspiracy to end BISP'
PPP leaders lashed out at the government after reports of the suggested name change spread.
Party chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said the reported name change of BISP was a "conspiracy" of the prime minister, who he alleged wanted to end the programme.
He claimed that women in Sehwan and Thatta were protesting as those who should be receiving the BISP funds were being treated unfairly.
"But this is a long-term conspiracy to end the Benazir Income Support Programme," Bilawal alleged.
"These people are enemies of the people and enemies of the poor," he said, alluding to the government. "First they will change the name then they will reduce the money, then they will completely end it."
Bilawal said the BISP programme was the "best use" of the country's money. By giving poor women money not only are women empowered but the economy is also strengthened from the bottom up, he added.
He explained that when a poor person has money, they purchase something which in turn improves the economy.
"Their (government's) thought process is that 'we just need to make the rich richer and a country develops with this'," Bilawal alleged, saying that this was an ideological difference between the PPP and the PTI and PML-N.
Adviser to the Sindh chief minister, Barrister Murtaza Wahab, also condemned the reported decision, saying that "someone should tell the prime minister that to change the name, the law has to be changed".
He added that the premier should try and understand the law before making such announcements and reminded him that he is "Pakistan's prime minister, not [its] king".
Party stalwart Khursheed Shah while addressing a ceremony in Sukkur today strongly condemned such a move. "If they want to remove Benazir's name from the card, they can. But how will they remove her name from the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan?" he asked.
"Benazir's politics don't need any card. The announcement to remove her name in Sindh is [like] contempt of Sindh," he claimed.
Benazir's daughter Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari said on Twitter that "It would save a lot of time and resources if puppet governments didn't attempt to relabel and really badly recycle the Benazir Income Support Programme."