Sitting governments all over the world have the disadvantage of incumbency. The opposition, the media and critics relish taking a dig at the government. The phenomenon gains more intensity in a politically-charged atmosphere with the result that even the good steps taken by the government for promoting the well-being of the people fails to attract attention. That is the situation currently being faced by the PTI government. I think it is an intellectual dishonesty on part of those critics who only prefer to focus on the negatives, real or imagined, to belittle and denigrate the performance of the government and fail to acknowledge its real achievements.

Honestly speaking, the PTI government under the stewardship of Prime Minister Imran Khan—notwithstanding the fact that it inherited an economy in a nosedive—has taken a number of initiatives in line with the party manifesto for poverty alleviation, providing safety nets for the vulnerable sections as well as promoting socio-economic development of the country in conformity with the modern concept of a welfare state. These measures are not only reflective of the spirit of Article 38(D) but are also in consonance with the wishes of the founding father who addressing the constituent assembly on August 11, 1947 said, “Now if we want to make this great state of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and poor”.

Perhaps it would be pertinent to specify those initiatives and their likely impact for society. The Ehsaas Programme, launched by the government and the steps taken under its umbrella is undoubtedly the first ever push to alleviate the suffering of the poorer sections of society and enable them to earn their own livelihoods through the businesses started with the help of the government.

Under the Ehsaas Kifalat Card scheme, Rs2000 cash payment will be made to seven million women. To ensure that unlike BISP, only deserving women benefit, the survey methodology has been revised to enable the ongoing identification of beneficiaries through desk registration. Also, a new system of payment has been installed, cash transfer has been increased and it offers digital and financial inclusion opportunities to women by providing better access to mobile phones. All beneficiaries will be able to access the payments at special ATMs and bank branches and will also have the option to deposit funds into savings accounts. The government has also revamped the BISP programme by excluding nearly 800000 fake beneficiaries from the list and raising the quarterly stipend from Rs5000 to Rs5500.

Ehsaas Saylani Langar envisages setting up 112 Langars (soup kitchens) with each having the capacity to provide hygienic food to 1000 people. So far, 15 Langars have been established. The scheme to feed the hungry is in the best Islamic traditions.

Ehsaas Amdan Programme envisages to distribute 200,000 assets among 1.4 million people. The assets would include cows, buffalos and goats to the poor people with 60 percent beneficiaries being women. It will cover 375 rural union councils of 23 districts across the country. To date 30,249 assets worth Rs.1.81 billion have been given free of cost.

Under the Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Programme an allocation of Rs.20 billion was made for giving 200000 scholarships over 4 years. So far Rs.4.9 billion have been distributed among 50762 students.

In the wake of the onset of coronavirus the government took a timely decision to transfer Rs.12000 as one-time emergency cash to the affected families and distributed Rs.20.3 billion among 16.9 million of them.

The Ehsaas interest free loans programme worth 42.65 billion is operating in 100 districts across the country and will impact 16.28 million people over 3 years. 50 percent of the loan recipients are women. To date, 893674 borrowers (46 percent women) have been given loans amounting to Rs30.8 billion. The range of the interest-free loans is Rs20000 to Rs75000. As many as 3.8 million interest free loans will be provided to 2.28 million households.

A three-year health and nutrition conditional cash transfer programme known as Ehsaas Nashwonuma (utilising special nutrition food for mothers and children in 9 poorest districts has been initiated for which an allocation of Rs.8.52 billion has been made out of which Rs.1.6 billion have been spent.

Ehsaas programme also aims at organising money by the Tahafaz programme office for the people needing medical help; building of shelter homes for the homeless; assisting street children through public-private partnership as well as helping transgender persons who suffer maltreatment in the society.

With a view to make Ehsaas programme a one-window operation, a separate ministry for social protection and poverty alleviation is being set up.

Under the Sehat Insaf Cards scheme, 5 million cards had been distributed till last December and the target is 10 million by the end of 2020. The setting up of a citizens portal to remove grievances for people is also a laudable step.

The Kamyab Jawan programme—a component of Ehsaas programme—is a very significant step. The loans given under it will help youth to establish small and medium enterprises generating thousands of jobs. It envisages advancing interest free loans of up to one hundred thousand rupees among the weaker segments of society in 45 less-developed districts of the country. The other two categories include loans up to Rs.500000 and Rs.5 million. Women will have 25 percent quota in it. So far the government has disbursed soft loans amounting to Rs.1.4 billion among qualified entrepreneurs under the scheme.

The Kamyab Jawan programme will be supplemented by Hunarmad Jawan (skilled youth) initiative which is designed to prepare the youth for employment at home and abroad by imparting training and education in high-tech and emerging technologies. The responsibility has been given to the National Vocational and Technical Training commission (NAVTTC). The commission through its training institutes will not only impart training to youth in line with the requirements within the country but would also sharpen their skills with regard to their employability in the employment destinations abroad. The NAVTTC has also converted its job portal to National Exchange Employment Exchange and refurbished and connected it with all existing job placement facilities across the country. The Commission has already trained thousands of youth in different trades.

In the present circumstances, when the economy has been severely hit by COVID-19 and thousands of jobs have been lost, promoting entrepreneurship among youth through Kamyab Jawan and Hunamand Jawan programme seems the best bet to stem the rot and to rejuvenate the economy. Countries like the USA, Japan, Denmark, Germany and Taiwan achieved development through promotion of entrepreneurship.

The foregoing verifiable facts undoubtedly establish and strengthen welfare-oriented credentials of the PTI government which must be acknowledged without any prejudice and malice as well as disseminated to the people who have the right to know them. One must remember that all programmes have a time-lag to materialise and make their full impact. The most important reality to acknowledge is that the government has set the ball rolling in the right direction.

Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at ashpak10@gmail.com.