Hundreds of men and women attacked the Gujranwala Benazir Income Support Scheme (BISP) offices on Monday after they did not receive their payment.
Police officials arrested three protesters, who broke through the gates of the district BISP offices. According to police officials, over 400 people came to protest outside the BISP offices in Gujranwala on Monday.
“It was a huge crowd and they were extremely angry. They soon began hurling stones and setting fire to tyres outside the premises,” said Constable Ali Yar Khan.
The protestors reached the BISP office located on Gujranwala’s Mian Ziaul Huq Road on Monday morning and said that they had not received any money under the project for over two years. “This is a national scam. They keep touting the BISP as if it is helping the poor but the truth is we haven’t seen a single rupee in two years,” said Gujranawla resident Fatima, who told reporters that she had been listed for funding under the BISP two years ago.
The Gujranwala BISP office staff told protesters that there was no electricity and the department’s website was also out-of-order. “We cannot even verify their claims that they haven’t been paid at present. There is no electricity at the office and our website is not fully operational,” said BISP official Mujahid Buksh.
“It is not our responsibility to make sure their website works or that their offices have electricity. We have been returning to this office every week to get our money but they always have some excuse,” said Rafeeq, who had been listed under the scheme for over a year.
The protesters also vandalised the BISP building and tore down hoardings and posters of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) outside the office. “This government has started many new initiatives but none of them are serving the people. These are just new and clever ways for them to make money by promising us a better future,” said Ameenullah Shakeel.
A protester said that BISP staff has cut off their own electricity to dodge the situation. “All the nearby buildings have electricity but the BISP office doesn’t. They have done this to avoid paying our money,” said Fatima.
Following the protest, several disabled women said that they were not receiving any BISP aid for the last two years. “There were a lot of tall claims to help us but nothing ever happened,” Ameena Bibi said. BISP director Aslam Khan Niazi, from the local office, said that none of this was his responsibility. “We have nothing to do with payments. We only gather data and provide assistance to the people. The people are provided their money through the post office but they are protesting against us,” he said.
“We are providing invaluable services to the public but naturally we cannot reach everyone. We provide information to hundreds of people on a daily basis,” Niazi said. He said that the BISP website was still out-of-order but that the regional offices were providing information by the phone.
Police officials have arrested three protesters at the scene but the remaining crowd dispersed after police cordoned off the area.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2011.