ISLAMABAD: The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) data has revealed that out of over 800,000 beneficiaries removed from the programme, more than 140,000 were those who or their spouses were government employees.

The federal cabinet had on Tuesday given approval to the removal of 820,165 beneficiaries from the BISP database, describing them as “undeserving”.

Meanwhile, Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari, daughter of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, criticised the government for depriving poor women of monthly stipend. “Almost 1 million beneficiaries of the only social safety net for women are cut off for meeting just one of the ridiculous criteria. Shameful that the idea of further suppressing and taking away independence of a woman came from a woman. Cut off from monthly stipend because of her husband’s phone bill,” she said in a tweet.

Bakhtawar lashes out at PTI government for depriving poor women of monthly stipend

The changes in the BISP database were made in the wake of reservations expressed by some cabinet members in previous meetings that the supporters of opposition parties, especially those backing the Pakistan Peoples Party, 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.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar had apprised the cabinet that in view of some complaints and a need to update the BISP data, the survey was reviewed with the help of the National Database and Registration Authority.

She said that during the review some aspects were looked into. For example, she added, it was ascertained whether the family of a beneficiary had any motorcycle or car or whether a spouse was a government employee. The cabinet was informed that those who had over 12 acres of land 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, Dr Nishtar said.

Out of total 820,165 beneficiaries removed from the BISP database, 14,730 were government employees or employees of railways, post office and BISP despite the fact that the facility was not meant for government servants. According to the data, 127,826 were those whose spouses were government employees or employees of the above-mentioned departments.

It said 153,302 were those who travelled abroad once and 195,364 were those whose spouses travelled abroad once. The number of beneficiaries who travelled abroad more than once stood at 10,476. Similarly, 166,319 spouses travelled abroad more than once.

The BISP removed 692 people from its database because they owned one or more than one vehicle, while 43,746 were deprived of the facility because their spouses have one or more than one car.

A person who can pay monthly telephone bill of Rs1,000 is not eligible to get monthly stipend from the programme and, therefore, 24,546 people were removed for falling into this category. Similarly, 155,767 were thrown out of the database as their spouses paid Rs1,000 or more telephone [PTCL, mobile] bill.

For applying passports via executive centres, 666 beneficiaries were excluded and 580 were removed as their spouses did the same.

A total of 36,970 people were expelled from the list of BISP beneficiaries because three or more than three members of their family paid executive fees for obtaining computerised national identity cards.

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2019