Bilawal cries ‘conspiracy’ as govt distances itself from BISP controversy


–Bilawal says govt wants to put an end to the poverty-alleviation programme

–FM Qureshi says not in favour of changing the name of BISP

–Khursheed says govt cannot remove Benazir from hearts and minds of people

LAHORE: The tussle between the government and opposition, which started with a media report about the former considering changing the name of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), took a new turn on Sunday as Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari claimed that a “conspiracy” was in play to end the poverty alleviation programme and the government distanced itself from the report.

Earlier in the day, Bilawal, while speaking to the media, claimed that government was conspiring against BISP and besides the report, the greatest proof of this was the fact that protesting women of BISP in Thatta and Sehwan had not been paid any money under BISP.

“There is a long-term conspiracy under which the programme’s name would first be changed, followed by decreasing allocation for it, and eventually the programme would be ended,” he claimed. “They are anti-people and anti-poor. They think that money is being wasted through BISP but I consider it the best programme in the entire country,” he said.

He said that not only was BISP empowering the women of the country but it was strengthening the economy as well. Bilawal also lashed out at the government for using the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) to carry out injustice towards the people of Sindh. He also vowed to prevent any further theft of water and to make efforts for its conservation.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that he was not in favour of changing the name of the programme, adding that the demand to change the name came from opposition members in the Sindh Assembly.

“The request for the name change came from opposition members of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) in the Sindh Assembly,” he said.

“People can have opinions but I am not personally in favour of changing its name,” he said, adding that efforts should be made to accomplish the programme’s agenda.

“The government is committed to poverty alleviation and Prime Minister Imran Khan has also issued directives for a new survey to be carried out for this purpose under the recently-launched ‘Ehsas’ programme,” he said.

The foreign minister also said that PPP had “misused” the programme and had raised objections to concerns regarding a survey which was conducted under BISP. He also said that the name of the programme cannot be unchanged unless a legal process is followed as it is a legislative matter.

Earlier, a report claimed that a GDA leader had met the prime minister and opined that the programme’s name should be changed, to which the premier had replied that the “name is being amended”.

Soon after this, PPP leaders lashed out at the government. Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister Barrister Murtaza Wahab said that someone should tell the premier that the law would have to be changed for this to happen. “He should try to understand the law before making such announcements as he is the prime minister, not a king,” he said.

Former opposition leader in the National Assembly (NA), Syed Khursheed Shah said that the government can remove Benazir Bhutto’s name from the programme but it cannot remove her name from the “hearts and minds of the people”. He further said that the announcement to remove her name in Sindh constitutes contempt of the province.

Benazir’s daughter Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari said that it would save a lot of time and resources if the “puppet governments did not attempt to re-label and really badly recycle” the programme.