LAHORE: The reported intention of the federal government to amend the name of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) has drawn ire of the Pakistan Peoples Party, which has vowed to resist the plan tooth and nail.
During his visit to Ghotki in Sindh on Saturday, Prime Minister Imran Khan reportedly agreed with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf allies that the name of the BISP should be changed after they alleged that the PPP was misusing the poverty alleviation project.
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari responded to the development by saying in Shikarpur on Sunday that the government was ‘conspiring’ to wrap up the project by initially changing its name and then reducing its funds.
Under the BISP, in operation since 2010, more than Rs124 billion had been allocated in the budget for 2018-19 for distribution among 5.6 million women at a rate of Rs4,834 per quarter for each recipient.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the BISP was the best welfare project of the country as it was empowering women and strengthening the economy.
Bilawal sees plot to wind up welfare scheme; Fawad says govt won’t change BISP’s name
Pledging to resist the government’s move to change the name of the programme, PPP secretary general Syed Nayyar Bukhari said the BISP was a recognition of the services of Benazir Bhutto for the country and a source of assistance for millions of needy women.
He said removing the name of the first woman prime minister of the country from the nomenclature would be an ‘insensible’ act and also an uphill task as the BISP had been given legal cover through an act of parliament. “It cannot be undone through an administrative order (by the prime minister).”
Benazir Bhutto’s daughter Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari, in a social media message, advised the government to save its “time and energy” by rejecting the proposal to change the BISP’s name.
“It would save a lot of time & resources if puppet governments don’t attempt to re-label & really badly recycle the Benazir Income Support Programme & instead just accept its glory (credit @AAZ) & continue to fund it. #HealthCardsAlreadyExist #GoatToBeKiddingMe #PTI,” read her tweet.
Criticising the prime minister at a ceremony in Sukkur, PPP leader Khursheed Shah said: “Imran Khan, you may remove the name of Benazir Bhutto (from a project’s nomenclature), but how would you remove her from the hearts of people. The history written with one’s blood cannot be washed away so easily.”
Taunting the PTI government, Mr Shah said he feared that the “Naya Pakistan wallahs” might also remove the Quaid-i-Azam’s picture from currency notes.
Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry responded to Mr Shah by saying he (Shah) was the “termite that is eating out institutions”. He advised the PPP leader to “stop selling” (the names of) Benazir Bhutto and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Meanwhile, the ruling PTI leaders do not seem to be on the same page vis-à-vis renaming of the BISP.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the media in Multan that he was not in favour of renaming the BISP. He explained that some leaders of allied parties in Sindh had proposed a change in the project’s name.
Fawad Chaudhry, while talking to a private news TV channel, said the government was not going to change the name of the BISP, but would “continue its operation under the Ehsaas Programme”.
On the other hand, Sindh Governor and PTI leader Imran Ismail said he did not know when Mr Qureshi opposed renaming the BISP. In reply to a query after visiting MQM-P leader Khwaja Izharul Hasan in a Karachi hospital where he was admitted after being injured in a road accident, the governor said: “I’m not aware when Shah Mehmood Qureshi opposed changing the name of the Benazir Income Support Programme, but the name of the programme will be definitely changed.”
Sindh Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani cautioned the federal government that if it planned to change the name through an ordinance, the opposition had the option of nipping the move in the bud through a resolution against the ordinance in the Senate or the National Assembly.
The opposition enjoys majority in the upper house.
Mr Ghani said the prime minister ought to be fully aware of the law and only then talk about it.
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2019