BISP and the eating disorder

There is a famous story of Ayub Khan and a mendicant friar who used to be starving near the tomb of Data Darbar in Lahore. Although, the story emerged from uncertain origin, it has been quoted by many credible scholars and story-tellers in Pakistan. The story begins when once Khan was on India’s tour where he was invited in a poetic congregation. In the function when a poet recited a poem in front of the guests, Khan was much inspired by the sonorous lyrics of the poem, and explicit his feelings to the poet towards the end of the function. He told the poet that the lyrics are insightful and written with much floridity and profundity; it seems as if the poet wrote it with much consecration and a heavy heart.

Coincidently, it was told to the President that the poem recited there was written by a Pakistani poet named Saghar Siddiqui. As Siddiqui was not renowned at that time. Hence, the then President was surprised and when he came back to Pakistan, he asked his subordinates to search for Siddiqui with gifts and ask him to meet with the President later on. Astonishingly, when the officials came to search the said poet, they were flabbergasted when the bystanders near the Data Darbar Lahore pointed towards a man with a dirt-poor look and long unwashed hair, upon asking.

When they met him, Saghar Siddiqui refused to be browbeaten. He vehemently denounced their request to have an interaction with President Ayub Khan. When this was told to the President; he himself came to meet Siddiqui. While having an introduction with Khan, the poet retracted and said his historic words in a poetic accent which became the true epitome of the feelings of the lowest echelons of society and are still relevant in Pakistan.

He said:

جس عہد میں لٹ جائے فقیروں کی کمائی
اس عہد کے سلطان سے کچھ بھول ھوئی ہے
The words that emanated from the mouth of a Dervish-looking poet proved to be so true that it is still relevant in Pakistan.

As few days back, it came to the fore by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Sania Nishtar who is also heading the Ehsaas Program, that many undeserving people are getting benefits from the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP). It was revealed that there are around 800,000 undeserving people in Pakistan who are getting benefits from the program, which is solely for the lowest and poorest echelons of society.

Furthermore, a list of people getting support from BISP was released by the concerned authorities which unmasked even the well-off bureaucrats and officials of BPS-17 and above; who or their spouses have been getting support from the program. Indeed, nothing does more harm and nothing is more despicable than the indiscriminate charity and funds when give to the well-off rather than the deserving.

The list entailed, “Government officers Grade 17 & above that have been exited from BISP. Either themselves or their spouses were BISP beneficiaries” reveals that there are in total 2543 officers from Grade 17 to Grade 21 who are involved in such derogatory malpractice. Balochistan alone has 741 Government Officers from grade 17 to 21 who are getting support from BISP. Among them 2 are Grade-21, 27 are Grade-20, 99 are Grade-19, 90 are Grade-18 and 523 are Grade-17 officers in the list. The provinces of Punjab and KPK had relatively less officers than Balochistan, but Sindh atop the list.

However, as soon as the list spread on social media, it started a debate over the malpractice. The Federal Minister of IT, Fawad Chaudhry, tweeted the famous sarcastic sentence: “کوئی شرم ھوتی ھے، کوئی ھیا ھوتی ھےٗ ” while commenting upon the list. Indeed, there is always some honor and dignity in human beings but unfortunately these enlisted officers have fallen into moral putrefaction and have become opprobrium monument of human greed. Surprisingly, the sentence has become a part of sarcastic political metaphor and has been recited at the assembly floor several times after emanating from the mouth of Khwaja Asif years back. Although the sentence is used as a mere rhetorical frippery and as an irony while taunting the leaders in politics. Yet, it has genuinely a relevance to the real world. There is genuinely a philosophy behind the said sentence.

There is a story- although there is no defined origin to be verified, but the locals swear by them- of a British Engineer that worked tirelessly in building the 3.9km Khojak Tunnel between 1888-1891 in Balochistan. However, when the tunnel did not meet at a single point which was dug from both opposite ends, engineer took it to his heart and found it so shameful for his consciousness that he killed himself. The story was also published in Dawn in 2016 and the renowned scholar, journalist, writer and teacher affiliated with Tameer-e-Nau College Quetta, Dr. Irfan Ahmed Baig has also narrated it in an article for the Jung Group and also on many other occasions.

Likewise, even animals have some dignity and honor and tend to refuse the shameful sordidness by getting themselves fallen into despicable practices. Much relevant in this regard is the story of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar and his elephant, named ‘Mahmood’. Mahmood, the Elephant was of relatively great height and vigor and beauty than the other animals of the same species. He was secluded and designated for the emperor only. That is why Mahmood had addicted to the caliber higher than many others.

When the colonial power annexed the subcontinent wholly and the properties and holdings of the former emperor were being auctioned; ‘Mahmood’ was also among those belongings of the emperor which was bought by a businessman of Turmeric. The instant his custody was given to the business man his trainer said to the Elephant, “Once your caliber was to serve the Emperor, now you would have to work for Turmeric businesses”. The moment that elephant got the words of his trainer; it is written in history that he instantly died of shock and extreme shame. He refused to be fallen into relatively a lower caliber.

In conclusion, not only the bureaucrats and government officers are involved in such malpractices, but politicians are also not behind. In recent years, accusations of corruption in the funds which were given specifically for the poor-most and suffered-most echelon of society were also reported. It was when the former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama granted funds of 70 million dollars to Maryam Nawaz for the program ‘Let Girls Learn’ to promote girls’ education in Pakistan and it was found that the funds were corrupted by Maryam Nawaz for personal use. The Sindh High Court also took notice of it.

Another unfortunate incident in this regard is a more recent one when a report in a British newspaper published alleging that the Opposition Leader in the National Assembly and PML-N’s President Shahbaz Sharif had embezzled the UK grant for relief activities after the earthquake in Pakistan. The news published in The Mail with the headline “Did the family of Pakistani politician who has become the poster boy for British overseas aid steal funds meant for earthquake victims?” Let the common citizen of Pakistan give the answer: “Yes!” Indeed,

کوئی شرم ھوتی ھے، کوئی ھیا ھوتی ھے

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