ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs the federal cabinet’s meeting.—PPI
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs the federal cabinet’s meeting.—PPI

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Tuesday gave approval to the remo­val of 820,165 names from the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) database, describing the beneficiaries as “undeserving”.

The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting after Spe­cial Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Welfare and Poverty Allevi­ation Dr Sania Nishtar informed it that the database of the BISP was being revised to exclude “undeserving” persons, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said while addressing a post-cabinet meeting press conference.

The changes in the BISP database were made in the wake of reservations expre­ssed by some cabinet members in the previous meetings that the supporters of opposition parties, especially those bac­king the Pak­is­tan Peo­ples Party (PPP), were benefiting from the programme while those belonging to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf were being ignored.

Launched in July 2008, the BISP is the country’s largest single social safety net programme with around 5.4 million beneficiaries, according to the 2016 data.

Dr Nishtar apprised the cabinet that in view of some complaints and need to update the BISP data, the survey was being reviewed with the help of the National Database and Registration Authority.

Cabinet throws out Maryam’s plea for foreign travel; announces package for families living along LoC

She said during the review, some aspects were being looked into. For example, she added, it was being ascertained whether the family of a beneficiary had any motorcycle or car or whether a spouse was a government employee. The cabinet was further told that those who had over 12 acres of land also did not fall in the category of “deserving” people. After the exclusion of 820,165 people, really deserving people would be included in the programme, she added.

“If we look into these aspects, then it comes to the fore that 820,165 people should not come in the purview of BISP,” Dr Awan said.

The cabinet in its Tuesday meeting also decided to bar Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz from travelling abroad by rejecting her request on the recommendation of cabinet’s subcommittee that deals with the Exit Control List (ECL).

Talking to the media, Dr Awan said: “Today recommendations of the subcommittee were placed before the cabinet suggesting that the VIP lady [Maryam Nawaz], who had laundered politically made assets abroad, not to leave the country.”

In all, the PM’s aide said, 24 cases regarding the ECL were brought before the cabinet through an interior ministry summary. It was decided to remove eight names from the no-fly list, reject the request for the removal of one name from the list and place four names on the ECL, she said, adding that eight cases were deferred. However, she did not disclose the fate of the remaining three cases.

Dr Awan said the cabinet unanimously rejected the request to remove the VIP’s name from the ECL. She explained that the cabinet endorsed the subcommittee’s recommendation that everyone should be treated according to law.

Earlier, ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader and legal expert Babar Awan had said the rules concerning placement of name of persons on ECL did not allow the government to entertain the PML-N vice president’s application to remove her name from the no-fly list. Similarly responding to a question about the application Ms Nawaz had filed before the Lahore High Court (LHC) to seek removal of her name from the ECL, federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda in a TV show had said the government would challenge court’s decision if the judiciary allowed her to go abroad and visit her ailing father in London.

PML-N’s reaction

In a statement issued on Sunday, PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said the government decision to bar the daughter of ex-prime minister from travelling abroad was not a surprise move considering that the PTI regime was always desperately looking for opportunities to victimise and persecute the leadership of the opposition party. “The decision of the subcommittee has no logical reason for keeping Maryam on the ECL, as the government has failed to prove any allegation against her in 16 months,” she claimed. Ms Nawaz had to file a plea before the court also, because the PML-N was aware of the ‘prejudice and vengeful mindset’ of the ruling PTI, she said.

Compensation package

According to the PM’s aide, the cabinet announced a compensation package for the people who often fall victim to indiscriminate Indian firing and shelling from across the LoC. “More than 79,992 houses remain under target of Indian firing and shelling and the government has decided to provide relief under Benazir Income Support Programme to 13,982 families living on the LoC,” she said.

Under the PTI government’s flagship programme, Ehsas, Dr Awan said ration would be supplied to the families living along the LoC. Besides, she said, the government would provide monetary assistance of Rs5,000 to each married woman of 33,498 families along the border on a quarterly basis. This would require a sum of Rs670 million for the year 2019-20, she added.

She also announced that the amount of stipend had been increased from Rs5,000 to Rs5,500 under the Ehsas Kifalat programme.

Tax laws, appointments

According to her, the cabinet meeting also approved proposed amendments to tax laws including Income Tax Ordinance-2001, Tax Act 1990, Customs Act-1960 and Federal Excise Act-2005.

In a separate decision, the cabinet approved appointment of retired Rear Admiral Zakaur Rehman as general manager of Karachi Port Trust (KPT), reformation of National Power Parks Management Company [NPPMC] board, appointment of members of the National Commission of Human Rights, Irfan Bukhari as ECO Exim Bank, Hamid Haroon as senior member of Federal Land Commission and Farrukh Iqbal as CEO of First Women Bank Limited.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2019