ISLAMABAD: The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) has issued a lot of rejoinders to the report from London, which said, “UK aid was ‘bankrolling’ PPP election flight through BISP and the House of Commons was probing the issue.”
The rejoinder said: The author ignored some visible and compelling facts about the social welfare programme in question. His report has erroneously ‘projected’ the BISP as a ‘scam’ to buy votes and some people have been quoted as a reference to prove a flawed idea based on faulty logic; the report lacks a lot: while the author has quoted the ‘opponents’ of the programme, he has not bothered to secure the viewpoint of the concerned in the BISP; and, he has nowhere referred to the transparent and apolitical mechanisms incorporated at the BISP (the data is available on the official website).
The DFID’s spokesperson has also categorically stated that UK was politically impartial in Pakistan. He said, “Our development assistance is based on need and effectiveness, not politics, and the Benazir Income Support Program Act was unanimously passed and supported by all political parties in Pakistan.”
He wants to bring into your knowledge the following facts:
1. Naming the programme after Martyred Benazir Bhutto is not a political affair. It is a common practice to name programmes after notable personalities as a tribute to their sacrifices. The name of Benazir Bhutto is synonymous with a life-long struggle for democracy, welfare of the downtrodden and women empowerment in the country and putting her name to a programme that is working to realize these ideals is only a mark of respect, rather than a political maneuver. The BISP’s acceptance across the board is evident from the fact that the BISP Act was unanimously passed by both houses of the Parliament (National Assembly and Senate), after the parliamentarians, across the divide, had paid glowing tribute to Benazir Bhutto and her services for democracy.
2. The writer could not be oblivious of the fact that the governments of 44 countries of the world (US, UK, Canada, many European, African and South Asian states) are running programmes involving social security, shelter, food stamp etc. Is he also implying that all these countries are using the welfare programmes as political tools? The fact remains that no country can even think of achieving the socio-economic growth until and unless the fate of the poorest of the poor is changed.
3. The BISP has identified the poor through a state-of-the-art targeting mechanism i.e. Poverty Scorecard Survey which applies the tool of proxy means testing to determine the welfare status of a household. Poverty Scorecard Survey was conducted for the first time in the history of South Asian region and the data of 27 million households was gathered across the country.
This mechanism reduces human bias and is known globally for its objectivity. The targeting process cut across political, geographical, ethnic and religious lines. Therefore, the BISP benefits are being delivered to all beneficiaries found eligible in the survey regardless of their caste, color, creed and political affiliations. As a result of this survey, more than 7 million poorest of the poor families have been identified as eligible, which comes to approximately 42 million impoverished people, covering almost 22% of the entire population of the country.
4. It is emphatically emphasized here that the BISP is an apolitical programme with the sole objectives of poverty alleviation and women and youth empowerment. The BISP’s database of 27 million households is maintained by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and state-of-the-art protocols are in place regarding the utilization of data. According to these approved protocols the data is only shared with federal and provincial government departments, national and international NGOs and donor agencies on specific need-based objectives aimed at informed decision-making and welfare projects for the poorest of the poor of the country. The data is not shared with any political entity at any cost.
5. When the programme was started, the beneficiaries were reached out through parliamentarians and equal numbers of forms were distributed among all the elected leaders irrespective of their political affiliations. This mechanism was adopted because no credible data was available at the time.
To be continued