Ehsaas vs. BISP: Two Sides To The Story

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Claim: Benazir Income Support Program deserves the recognition given to Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program by the World Bank.

Fact: While the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program used the technological protocol first initiated by BISP, the program was launched and overseen by the PTI government.

The World Bank recently released a report, naming Pakistan’s Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program as the fourth most successful cash-transfer initiative for Covid-19 relief, in terms of the number of people covered. Prime Minister Imran Khan posted the news on his Twitter, congratulating Sania Nishtar, the special assistant to the prime minister on social safety and poverty alleviation, who also heads the Ehsaas initiative, as well as the Ehsaas team.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari retweeted Khan’s tweet, implying that the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) actually deserved the recognition.

On 24 May, a video of Khan went viral, in which he is told by a woman that she hasn’t received her “Benazir cash”. He corrects her saying, “This is not Benazir, this is Ehsaas, this is mine.” The video resparked the Ehsaas vs. BISP debate on twitter once again.

PPP leaders and supporters state that the credit for Ehsaas and its successes should go to BISP.

PTI and its supporters refute this, stating that the current government deserves credit for Ehsaas.

Ehsaas vs. BISP: The Facts
Ehsaas is an umbrella initiative which falls under the government’s Division of Poverty Alleviation and Poverty Alleviation. Ehsaas’ scope is wider than that of BISP, which focused primarily on women. Ehsaas aims to meet several stated goals, including scholarships for 5 million girls, creating livelihood opportunities for 3.8 million people, and promoting multi-sectoral collaboration. To meet these goals, Ehsaas has launched several programs, one of which is the Emergency Cash Program. Other programs include a rashan distribution initiative and scholarships for undergraduate students. These are all implemented by a number of different bodies.

In 2019, there were media reports that BISP would be renamed. Soch Fact Check found that BISP is still functional, however in the capacity of an executing agency.

There are several other bodies like PPAF, Bait-ul-Maal, and Trust for Voluntary Organisations that act as Ehsaas’ executing agencies. BISP implements the Kifalat program in particular, and is also responsible for implementing the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program.

The Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program was launched in April 2020 by Prime Minister Imran Khan, and led by Nishtar, specifically in the context of Covid-19. The program uses the technological infrastructure inherited from BISP, of SMS registration, NADRA verification, and digital cash payments via telecom companies and banks. Furthermore, BISP was based on a nation-wide survey, which was then used to make the National Socio-Economic Register (NSER) and used to identify potential beneficiaries. PTI’s government expanded the NSER with a second survey which was also used in the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program. This mode is not unique to BISP, however, or Pakistan. Biometric data is used in cash-transfer programs the world over, including in India’s Aadhaar program.

Summary: The World Bank named Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program as the fourth most successful Covid-19 relief cash-transfer program in the world. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari implied that the Benazir Income Support Programme deserves credit for this. The debate on whether the credit for Ehsaas goes to BISP is seen often on social media. Soch Fact Check found that Ehsaas, including the emergency cash program, utilizes the technological infrastructure initiated by BISP. Ehsaas’s scope includes more programs than BISP, while the emergency cash program was launched and overseen by PTI’s government.

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