ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G Ebrahim has taken notice of reports on the alleged misuse of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leaders as a tool for pre-poll rigging.
The CEC told this correspondent on Wednesday that reports of The News on the matter had been referred to all members of the Election Commission for their comments and recommendations. “We cannot ignore the issue,” he said, adding that all aspects of the issue would be considered.
Fakhru Bhai, however, vowed that no stone would be left unturned to ensure fair and impartial elections. He warned that if the elections were rigged in any manner, it would have extremely serious consequences for Pakistan.
Meanwhile, sources in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) confided to The News that besides considering the aspects of the BISP, which could be exploited by the ruling PPP to influence the beneficiaries of the programme, the ECP would also see as to what it could do under the law to prevent any such effort for pre-poll rigging.
While Farzana Raja, the BISP chairperson, assured that no political party, including her own (the PPP), would be allowed to exploit the programme for political gains in the next general elections, she also admitted that ministers and MPs were permitted to give money orders to the BISP beneficiaries.
BISP Secretary Sher Khan, however, had claimed that the money was not distributed among the beneficiaries through politicians. “Our own people do this,” he had insisted but later Farzana Raja’s statement contradicted his position.
A letter of BISP Director Gujranwala Aslam Khan Niazi addressed to BISP Director Payment in Islamabad Noor Rehman Khan and copied to all concerned, however, negated the claim of the BISP secretary.
The operative part of the BISP letter says: “1. It is informed that Ch Imtiaz Safdar Warraich (MNA, President PPP Punjab & State Minister for Interior) approached BISP Tehsil office, Gujranwala, and requested that according to the stated tabulated schedule, he intends to distribute MOs (money orders) to the registered beneficiaries.
“2. In view of the above, you are requested to please direct Pakistan Post to arrange delivery of MOs to BISP beneficiaries at selected venue by making arrangement through notables of the areas under supervision of Ch Imtiaz Safdar Warraich.”
The letter dated August 23, 2012 also contained the list of distribution venues. This letter also talked about the notables (of the PPP) to be involved in the distribution of money among the beneficiaries.
Farzana Raja told this correspondent on Monday last that her organisation would welcome even the opposition MPs if they requested to distribute money among the beneficiaries. None of the opposition MP has, however, been involved in such an activity so far.
The programme has been allocated Rs70 billion for the current fiscal year to provide cash assistance up to seven million families, which constitute over 20 percent of the entire population.
Sources say that not only the already enrolled beneficiaries, almost 4.2 million, are being exposed to the PPP leaders but also the details of those cleared for the same assistance, almost 3 million, are secretly provided to the PPP “notables”.
Farzana Raja, however, categorically denied that such information was shared with anyone. Sources even within the BISP warn that if this programme is not depoliticised and de-tagged from being a PPP project, it would directly affect almost 21 million voters (seven million families of beneficiaries with average three voters in each family).