ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly was informed on Friday that after removal of the names of over 800,000 “ineligible” beneficiaries from the list of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) over 4.4 million fresh names were being included in it.
According to the answer to a written question, the minister in charge of the poverty alleviation and social safety division informed the house that 4.4 million beneficiaries would be included under Kifalat programme and 70,000 new beneficiaries had already been included in 15 districts of the country.
The house was also given details of 820,165 ineligible recipients removed from the BISP data two months ago, including 153,302 for travelling abroad (self-once), 195,364 who travelled abroad (spouse-once), 10,476 who travelled abroad (self) more than once, 166,319 who travelled abroad (spouse) more than one, 692 for having one or more vehicles (self), 43,746 for having one or more vehicles (spouse), 24,546 for having monthly PTCL bill of Rs1,000 (self), 115,767 for receiving PTCL bill of Rs1,000 (spouse), 666 who applied for passports via executive centres (self), 580 for applying passports via such centres (spouse), 36,970 who have three or more family members applied for CNIC with executive fee, 14,730 were government employees (self) and 127,826 wives of government employees.
Two MNAs claim over 6,000 Pakistanis fled Taftan without screening for coronavirus after their return from Iran
The lower house of the parliament was apprised that over 6,000 Pakistanis who were kept in quarantine in Taftan after their return from Iran had fled the facility without completing the screening process and that they could cause the spread of coronavirus in the country.
Amid the fear of coronavirus, the NA session was abruptly cut short and prorogued sine die. During the session the opposition demanded that a National Action Plan be devised to fight coronavirus. It accused the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government of not taking emergency steps to stop the spread of coronavirus in the country.
The house was apprised by two members — Agha Hassan Baloch and Dr Shahnaz — that over 6,000 people who had returned from Iran fled the border town of Taftan without screening for coronavirus.
Mr Baloch of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal said that the Balochistan government would be responsible for the spread of coronavirus in the country.
He criticised the Balochistan government for “not taking adequate steps” to check people coming from Iran.
“What if the virus travels with us when we come here to attend the [National Assembly] session.
When the session began on March 9, the House Business Advisory Committee had decided that the assembly was to remain in session till March 20, but it was prorogued suddenly on Friday.
The session was prorogued after Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said that many members from both sides of the aisle had asked for the session to be cut short. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan had also been consulted on the matter.
Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri then read out the order for prorogation of the session.
The assembly had been discussing the coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan, with opposition members blaming the federal and provincial governments for not taking enough steps to contain the virus.
Speaking on the occasion, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the issue of coronavirus was of national importance and not about political point scoring. “Sindh has done some work, Balochistan has taken some measures as well but nothing else is being done in the entire country. We are happy that the prime minister has taken notice and called a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) today.”
He said while the whole country needs to focus on fighting the virus, the government chose to arrest Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, editor-in-chief of Jang Media Group.
Mr Abbasi said that the government “should focus on coronavirus for next few weeks instead of political victimisation”.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s Raja Pervez Ashraf said that the country did not act in time, saying that the issue came into limelight [in Pakistan] when the opposition began speaking about Pakistani students who were stranded in Chinese city of Wuhan.
The government, he said, should give the House the real data of the number of passengers screened at airports and how many of them actually tested positive for coronavirus.
Responding to the opposition’s criticism, Minister for Higher Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood said: “When this issue came to surface, we were in a fix regarding the students stuck in Wuhan,” he said.
He said the Chinese government advised Pakistan not to allow these students to leave Wuhan and assured that they would be taken care of them. “Today the number of coronavirus cases is decreasing in China and the situation is improving there,” he added.
“The Sindh government has shut schools down and announced an emergency in the province. They should have waited for the NSC meeting,” he added.
A day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared coronavirus a pandemic, the Sindh government on Thursday decided that all PSL matches in the National Stadium, Karachi, would be played without spectators and all educational institutions in the province — which were to reopen on March 16 — would remain closed until May 30.
Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2020