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There is no move in the offing to either rename or abolish Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), which would continue to function under the ambit of Ehsaas Kifalat Programme as part of the federal government's Ehsaas Programme, it has been learnt.

In April last year, the federal cabinet with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair had approved the formation of Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Division directly headed by Dr Sania Nishtar, the Special Assistant to PM on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety. The Division supervises and coordinates the functioning of different organisations under Ehsaas Programme. These organisations include BISP, Pakistan Baitul Mal, Zakat, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund and Trust for Voluntary Organisations under Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Division.

However, this policy led to confusion regarding the fate of organisations like BISP amidst reports that the government is set to abolish BISP with its absorption in Ehsaas Programme.

But the official sources deny these reports saying BISP would continue to be part of Ehsaas Kifalat Programme under the broader ambit of Ehsaas Programme run by the Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Division while there is no plan on the cards to disband BISP or change its identity.

This is not the first time reports questioning BISP's future have surfaced.

In March last year, the reports had done rounds that the federal government was planning to rename BISP.

Chairman Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had termed the reported move a "conspiracy to end crucial support to poor segments of the society."

A statement issued by BISP then denied any such possibility. "No amendment has been placed before the parliament to change its (BISP's) name and there has been no formal discussion on the subject," the statement said.

In December 2019, the federal government announced to increase the quarterly grant from Rs 5,000 to Rs 5,500 for 4.3 million BISP beneficiaries. Some 820,165 'underserving' beneficiaries were removed from the BISP's list which included 2,543 offices from grade 17 to grade 21 and the government announced that steps were being taken to initiate action against them and recover the amount they had received as unconditional cash grant.

In January this year, BISP dismissed four of its gazetted officers working in grade 17 for allegedly enrolling their spouses as BISP beneficiaries to unlawfully receive financial assistance that is offered to deserving families.

The government has tasked its 34 agencies and all federating units to implement Ehsaas Programme that aims to bring 10 million poor families in social safety net, in what the government claims is the largest social welfare initiative ever in the history of Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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