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September 7, 2012

BISP becomes a pre-poll rigging tool for PPP

World

AFP
September 7, 2012

ISLAMABAD: The PPP government has actively started using the taxpayer-funded Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) as an effective tool for pre-poll rigging, it is learnt.
Sources in the BISP reveal, and official documents show, the BISP sharing what is otherwise privileged information, about the beneficiaries with the PPP leaders to get the programme encashed in favour of the ruling PPP in the final election year.
The programme has been allocated Rs70 billion for the current fiscal year to provide cash assistance to seven million families, which constitutes over 20 percent of the entire population.
Sources say that not only the already enrolled beneficiaries, almost four million, are being exposed to the PPP leaders but also the details of those cleared for the same assistance, almost three million, are secretly provided to the PPP “notables”.
If this programme is not depoliticised and de-tagged as a PPP project, the sources fear it would directly affect almost 21 million voters (seven million families of beneficiaries with average three voters in each family).
Though the BISP secretary categorically said that neither the details (names and addresses) of the beneficiaries have been shared with anyone nor are the PPP leaders involved in the distribution of funds to the beneficiaries, documents of the BISP speak otherwise.
BISP Secretary Sher Khan, who is almost 70-year old retired BS-22 officer re-employed for this job, insisted that the BISP is a successful project acclaimed by international agencies and has no political motives. He said that merely the number of the beneficiaries and their area-wise data could be shared with people. He said otherwise the names and addresses of the beneficiaries are kept confidential. He, however, said that some of the political leaders might have the details of the future beneficiaries, whose names have been cleared but are waiting for the issuance of their identity cards.
Otherwise, he said that

neither such details are shared with the PPP leaders and notables nor is the money distributed to the beneficiaries through politicians. “Our own people do this,” he insisted.
However, a letter of Director BISP Gujranwala Aslam Khan Niazi addressed to Director Payment BISP Islamabad Noor Rehman Khan with copies sent to all concerned negates 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 & Minister of State for Interior) approached BISP Gujranwala tehsil office 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. Besides this, a BISP official stationed in Bahawalpur has approached the BISP headquarters in Islamabad complaining: “The BISP official data is being misused by the notables of the PPP.”
Another document shows a BISP official at the headquarters seeking the attention of BISP bosses by pointing out that complaints are being received regarding the political activists’ access to BISP beneficiary data.
The official said that the former nazim of his area had the list of beneficiaries of the area. “More disconcerting was the fact that the said ex-nazim was approaching every beneficiary personally, telling her family that their financial aid bas been approved due to his efforts, and in case they did not vote for him (or his party), then their financial aid will be stopped. In other words, he was building political capital out of the data given to him.”
According to the sources, besides the BISP, the Post Office and National Database and Registration Authority officials also shared the details of the beneficiaries with the PPP notables. It is said that contrary to the BISP claims the data of their respective district/tehsil BISP beneficiaries is available to all key PPP leaders.
Such is the level of secrecy of the beneficiaries data that one Shabbir Asif Gopang, divisional president of Peoples’ Youth Organization DG Khan, wrote to the BISP divisional director that he had activated the youth wing and does programme in each tehsil of the division one by one where the BISP beneficiaries are complaining to him about corruption by the BISP officials, who are anti-PPP. The youth wing chief of DG Khan sought action against the anti-PPP BISP area officials.
Sources in the BISP say though the BISP is the country’s largest social safety net programme, it has been turned into a tool for political gains. The entire programme is run on taxpayers’ money and foreign aid/loans but it is run under the name of the former PPP leader and ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto as if it is a PPP project.
From display boards at the headquarters to similar advertisements across all BISP offices in the country, on all the official letters and even cards issued to beneficiaries the picture of BB and PPP party colours are printed.
“With the elections nearing, the workers and leaders of the party have gained access to classified information about beneficiaries. There are reports that they are going door to door, warning the beneficiaries that if the PPP is not voted to power again their financial aid would be stopped,” a BISP official claimed on condition of anonymity.
The administrative head of the BISP, Sher Khan, however, denies all this. Farzana Raja, the BISP chairperson, is also quoted to have told the British media a few days back that the BISP has neither any political objective nor has it been launched to get the PPP success in the elections. She insisted that it is purely a social welfare project and the PPP would want it to be continued by the future governments as well.