Benazir is an Urdu word of Persian origin which means something or somebody which has no precedent or parallel. This was also the first name of tragically assassinated former PM of
, Benazir Bhutto fondly remembered as BB. She was murdered when she had just addressed her election rally in Pakistan . She was, probably the most popular leader but she was not yet a public figure as she was not holder of any public office. Yet, she was honored and a number of public institutions and places were stripped and deprived of their original names and named after her by the force of power when her party came to power. Rawalpindi
A multi-billion rupees program was established purportedly to give cash grants to the poor and was also appropriately named as Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) as BB, who had left the luxury of life abroad to be able to become PM again is considered by many as pro-poor. The funds for BISP were neither donated by her party nor her family, yet these are distributed through politicians to build their image in the name of BB but at the taxpayers’ expense. These funds are appropriated from the budget and as such belong to taxpayers and it was for this reasons that 87 members of National Assembly demanded to rename the Program as NISP or National Income Support Program. What these MNA’ did not highlight or were unable to comprehend was that the system of cash grants is exposed to the risk of massive misuse of the huge amounts involved in the Program.
It has now been reported that according to a government survey, six out of every 10 recipients of monthly cash grants under BISP in 16 districts are not chronic poor, heightening concerns about the eligibility of other recipients in districts not yet surveyed. According to Express Tribune, the survey’s findings give credence to international donors’ concerns about flaws inherent in distributing billions of rupees through parliamentarians.
So far, the government has distributed Rs44.3 billion through parliamentarians’ system of reaching out to the poor during the past two years. In 2008-09, Rs15.8 billion was distributed among the “poor” in the shape of Rs1,000 monthly cash grants. The figure touched the Rs28.5 billion mark during the last financial year (2009-10). BISP chief pointed out that those left out of the list may not be extremely poor, but poor all the same. The government was planning to increase the poverty level of 16.17 in order to accommodate more people in the program.
The government had carried out a poverty scorecard survey in 16 districts of the country on the insistence of donor agencies, which were skeptical about transparency of cash handouts following identification of the poor through elected representatives.