Islamabad, July 7, 2023: Federal Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety (PA&SS) and Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Ms. Shazia Marri said that “Benazir Social Protection Accounts” is a revolutionary milestone in 15 year journey of Benazir Income Support Programme which will further ensure transparency during cash disbursements. She said this during the launching ceremony of “Benazir Social Protection Accounts” for Benazir Income Support Programme’s beneficiary. The Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif was the chief guest at the ceremony who also launched “Benazir Social Protection Account” along with the Federal Minister Ms. Shazia Marri, SAPM Mr. Faisal Karim Kundi and others at Prime Minister House.
The launch ceremony was attended by a number of distinguished guests including Federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting Ms. Marriyum Aurangzeb, members of diplomatic community and BISP beneficiaries.
The Federal Minister said that BISP has achieved a significant milestone today with the formal launch of Benazir Social Protection Accounts under the esteemed patronage of Prime Minister of Pakistan, Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif. She further said that this new payment system will give autonomy to women in selecting the bank of their choice. The payments will be directly made into their accounts which beneficiaries can withdraw at their convenience, she added. She informed the audience that four banks namely National Bank, Bank Alfalah, JS Bank limited and United Bank Limited have been initially selected through competitive process for the new payment model i.e. “Benazir Social Protection Account”.
Ms. Shazia Marri, expressed her gratitude for the Prime Minister's presence at the event, emphasizing PM’s deep interest in the programme. She acknowledged the visionary role played by the late Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, who dreamt this social protection programme, and former President Asif Ali Zardari, who established it in 2008. She said that BISP is a non-political programme committed to providing financial support to deserving women on an equal basis. Over the past 15 years, BISP has achieved numerous milestones: transforming the lives of countless families across the nation.
While talking about the budget enhancement during last one year Ms. Marri said that BISP budget was increased from Rs. 235 billion to Rs. 404.2 billion, with an overall increase of 72% taking number of beneficiaries from 7.2 Million to 9 Million, which is testament of current government’s commitment to protect the most vulnerable and marginalized segment of our society. Furthermore, the number of families eligible for BISP has risen from 7.6 million to 9 million in last one year.
Ms. Shazia Marri also highlighted the enhancements made in stipends and educational scholarships. In 2022, she said, the quarterly stipend under the Benazir Kafaalat Programme was Rs 7,000 per family. After a 25% increase, the quarterly stipend is now Rs 8,750. Similarly, the number of children benefiting from Benazir Taleemi Wazaif rose from 2.6 million in 2022 to 7.52 million in 2023. The Benazir Undergraduate Scholarship Programme awarded 82,000 scholarships in 2022, which increased to 92,003 scholarships this year. Additionally, 770,000 mothers and their children are currently benefiting from the Benazir Nashonuma Programme. Ms. Marri further said that under the Fuel Subsidy Programme Rs.16.3 billion were distributed among 8.3 million households.
Federal Minister further said that in 2022, when floods ravaged the nation, BISP distributed Rs. 70 billion among 2.8 million households affected by the calamity. The National Socio-economic Registry (NSER), maintained by BISP, holds data of 35 million households, ensuring effective assistance to those in need. Of these 2.3 Million households were re-surveyed during the last four months alone.
Ms. Marri said that an important step forward in inclusivity was witnessed as BISP extended its support to the transgender community for the first time in the history of Pakistan. Moreover, the poverty cut-off score for differently-abled persons has been lowered from 32 to 37, enabling greater assistance for this vulnerable segment of society. A book titled “15 Years of Benazir Income Support Programme” encompassing 15 year journey of Benazir Income Support Programme was also launched during the ceremony.
Secretary BISP Mr. Aamer Ali Ahmed welcomed the distinguished guests and provided an overview of the programme's progress. He highlighted that BISP is currently extending financial support to 9 million deserving families, and this year, an additional 300,000 deserving families will be included in the programme. As part of this expansion, new payment model, i.e. “Benazir Social Protection Account” under BISP has been officially inaugurated today, he informed the audience. Initially it was launched as a pilot project. These accounts have been rolled out in Sukkur, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, North Waziristan, he said. This initiative empowers deserving women by granting them the right to choose the bank of their choice, access to cheque books and debit cards, and the option to switch banks if necessary. He concluded that Benazir Social Protection Account will ensure more transparency, choice, and dignity of beneficiaries.