Senate panel wants those excluded from BISP heard out

Updated January 29, 2020

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The Senate Functional Co­m­mittee on Problems of Less Developed Areas in a meeting, which was chaired by Senator Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar, also directed the BISP to share names of government emp­loyees who had been directly or indirectly getting the stipends for the past many years. — APP/File
The Senate Functional Co­m­mittee on Problems of Less Developed Areas in a meeting, which was chaired by Senator Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar, also directed the BISP to share names of government emp­loyees who had been directly or indirectly getting the stipends for the past many years. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Tuesday showed concern over exclusion of more than 800,000 beneficiaries from the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and directed the relevant authorities to issue show-cause notices to them to ensure fair treatment.

The Senate Functional Co­m­mittee on Problems of Less Developed Areas in a meeting, which was chaired by Senator Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar, also directed the BISP to share names of government emp­loyees who had been directly or indirectly getting the stipends for the past many years.

At the meeting, which was held in Parliament House, Special Assistant to Prime Minister and BISP Chairperson Dr Sania Nishtar informed the committee that Ehsaas was the umbrella under which numerous welfare programmes such as the national socio-economic registry, unconditional cash transfer, conditional cash transfer, nutrition initiative and BISP graduation programme were run.

“Ehsaas Programme is the future of social protection in Pakistan. It was launched on 27th March, 2019 with four focus areas and 155 policy actions to reduce inequality, invest in people and uplift lagging districts. It has 134 elements and involves 34 federal agencies to implement this multi-sectoral multi-stakeholder initiative,” she said.

About the exclusion of 820,165 beneficiaries, the committee was told that the decision was taken after beneficiary profiling, as they were screened out for failing in the ascertained criteria. The committee was informed that the 820,165 beneficiaries included 2,548 government officers (BS-17 to 21). According to reports 127,826 recipients were spouses of government employees; over 160,000 recipients had travelled abroad at least once, while the spouses of more than 361,000 recipients had travelled abroad at least once, and almost 45,000 recipients had a car registered in their name or in the name of their spouse. Overall, the removal of 820,165 recipients will save the government Rs16 billion per year.

The committee was informed that a national survey would be conducted soon and poverty scorecard methodology would be applied for the identification of the poor. Discovering vacant positions at BISP offices across the country, the committee called for filling the 2,067 positions at the earliest.

The parliamentary body was of the opinion that BISP must head towards self-sustainability of beneficiaries and help them start up small businesses. The BISP was directed to focus on less developed areas and increase support for the beneficiaries from those areas instead of allocating funds pro rata. Considering scholarships, preference must be given to students of less developed areas. The committee called for taking up the issue of fake BISP calls and referring them and those involved to the Federal Investigation Agency for probe and criminal proceedings.

Later, Mr Kakar told Dawn that he was sure some mistakes or blunders had been made while enrolling the beneficiaries in the past. “However, no one should be excluded from the list without giving them a chance to explain their position.

“It was said that some persons have performed Haj, but I personally know people who helped a number of less privileged to perform Haj. Moreover, spouses can go abroad for Tabligh,” the senator said.

“The BISP informed the committee that it had issued show-cause notices to its employees who were getting stipends. I suggested to them to issue show-cause notice to all the persons who have been excluded,” Mr Kakar said.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2020