ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar has announced that the government will provide mobile phones and quarterly stipend to seven million women and facilitate opening of their banks accounts.
Besides, a fresh survey would be conducted to ascertain whether those registered with the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) still needed assistance and to add other deserving persons in the database, Dr Nishtar told a press conference on Sunday.
She also announced that under the Kafalat programme seven million women would be educated on financial and communication matters enabling them to run bank accounts and use mobile phones.
Chairperson says 7m women to be given mobile phones, quarterly stipends under Kafalat scheme
“We have decided to involve the State Bank of Pakistan and private banks [in the programme]. Process of accounts opening will be started in October this year,” she said.
“Moreover, under the Tahaffuz programme, in case of any sudden emergency such as accident, health issue etc, people would be able to contact the government through SMS (short message service) and assistance will be provided to them within 48 hours,” she said.
About the fresh survey, Dr Nishtar said the last BISP survey had been conducted nine years ago and according to international practices fresh survey should be held after every five to 10 years, as financial condition of people changes.
“I came across a woman who stopped receiving BISP stipend. The woman told me that she was a widow so she had accepted financial assistance but after some years her son went to the United Kingdom and started sending her money. Thereafter she stopped receiving BISP assistance,” explained the special assistant to the premier.
She said around Rs10 billion would be spent on the fresh survey.
“We have decided to introduce mechanism to continuously include new members so that there will be no requirement of holding another survey in future,” she said.
Dr Nishtar said Prime Minister Imran Khan had launched the ‘Ehsaas’ social safety programme having four major components and 115 policies in March. The first component was aimed at cutting government expenses and bringing transparency in procurements, appointments and tenders, she said. For social protection, the second component of the Ehsaas programme, the budget was doubled, she added.
“The third component is to generate employment for which interest-free loans will be provided to 80,000 persons every month. The fourth and last component of the programme is to improve human capital by providing education and skills to them,” she said.
“All the government institutions, which are doing welfare work such as Baitul Mal, Zakat, BISP, etc would be brought under one division and it would be evaluated if really deserving persons were getting the assistance,” she added.
The BISP chairperson said strict action was being taken against those using the name of the BISP through SMS for offering fake assistance and cash awards.
Reacting to her presser, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader and former Sindh governor Mohammad Zubair Umar said 1.2 million people had lost their jobs since August 2018.
During the next two years, eight million people would go below the poverty line, he feared. He said the special assistant to the PM Dr Nishtar was competent and highly respectable but she put her credibility at stake by deciding to work with the PTI. “She will soon realise it,” he said.
“The BISP has [already] conducted some fresh surveys and they can be used. The PTI had claimed that a number of problems would be solved within [the first] 100 days [of their government]. But till date the real problems have not been even considered by the government,” he said.
Mr Zubair said there could be 115 policies of the Ehsas programme but who would pump money to implement those policies.
Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2019