Balochistan is widely acknowledged as the poorest province in Pakistan. Various studies conducted over the years support the view. As much as 10-11% of Pakistan’s total population living in poverty resides in Balochistan.
According to the 2016 Report on Multidimensional Poverty, three out of four individuals in the province live below the poverty line. Despite the dire situation, the province is not receiving its fair share of poverty alleviation funds under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
A series of messages exchanged between officials of the Balochistan government and the federal government show that Balochistan’s share of total BISP beneficiaries (who receive unconditional transfers) is a mere 4%. There are only 230,000 such beneficiaries in Balochistan. Discounting for a moment that it is poorer than the other provinces, Balochistan receives even less than its share according to population (6%).
If Balochistan is given an equal share from the center and beneficiaries are included based on merit, then that would reduce the poverty index of the province and help transform lives of marginalised communities.
Ever since the Benazir Income Support Program began giving her cash grants, Sameena Sultan has been able to feed and clothe her family. Before this they were perpetually in a state of starvation with her children often going to bed unfed.
Sameena Sultan is a mother to four children and she has been a single parent looking after her family since her husband Sultan died in 2022. She lives in the remote cliffs of Dera Bugti and hardly manages to support herself and her children as an artisan stitching and embroidering Balochi embroidery stitching earns her a little amount for a living.
She now received a monthly cash handout of PKR 8,750/- from BISP which helps her manage food and clothing. “I am immensely feeling happy that after a long time good days have arrived for my family as now they do not go to bed unfed and wear some fresh clothes. The amount that I am supported with meets our necessities,” said Sultan/
However on other hand, Balach a social activist in Dera Bugti claims that many families who are currently living below the poverty-line and cannot manage food and other necessities on their own have been excluded in the assessment process of the BISP program in Balochistan.
“I have been observing the assessment process of BISP in the area where the teams do not reach to the populations living in the peripheries of the district. Sameena Sultana was suggested by the other NGO to BISP to register her name for the monthly support. Some of the BISP team members have been registering their blood relatives in the program to benefit them, though they are not the deserving beneficiaries,” explained Balach.
On May 4 2023, Shazia Mari, the Minister for Poverty Alleviation admitted that “the missing number of eligible people from the BISP program is high especially in Balochistan and other remote areas in Pakistan.”
This was stated while during the meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety, which was conducted under the chairmanship of Senator Naseebullah Bazai. The committee was briefed by the secretary BISP about the quota of beneficiaries of the program in Balochistan, and the number of districts benefiting from the BISP in Balochistan.
He told the committee that 125 NADRA desks had been organised to register families who had been left out of registration for BISP.
There is no doubt that BISP is transforming lives and it is an initiative carried out in each government. But on other hand, the missing number of deserving beneficiaries, the corruption claims and misconducts de-escalates this public-oriented program.
Muhammad Awaz Baloch, divisional director (BISP) Quetta agrees with the claims made by the community that many of the deserving families located in the remote areas of Balochistan have been excluded in the assessment process from BISP teams.
“They have been missed due to the low capacity of convince and less number of teams in the districts, but with the help of Germany at the end of this month, 500 motorcycles will be provided to Balochistan, for which people will be deployed for 18 months who will to register people in remote areas and where vehicles cannot reach. Apart from this in Balochistan, 20 Hino trucks are being operated in which there will be one NADRA employ, one cash employee from the BISP and one registration employee,” said Baloch.
He also added that while there is no investigation into the claims made by Balach, there might in fact be some very minor misconducts at the lower-level but there are efforts to create a system of transparency regarding the flow of monthly cash injections to the marginalised communities in Balochistan.
“In the recent flash-floods, we raised the disbursing amount to 15000 per family to help them meet their needs as they were severely hit by the floods with nothing left behind,” explained Baloch.