Several factors have been identified as the main contributors of poverty in Pakistan. Poor governance coupled with economic and social factors have played a significant role in widening the gap between the rich and the poor. The slowdown in GDP growth in the last three to four years, the persistence of a regressive social structure and a decadent feudal setup have also contributed to the increase in poverty currently witnessed. Power and patronage is deeply entrenched in rural Pakistan. Wherever this concentration of power exists, it has had serious implications for the vulnerability of the rural population, and particularly their ability to exploit whatever limited economic opportunities are available to them. Local feudal lords tend to act as intermediaries between the poor and the public functionaries assigned to their area, and limit direct contacts between the public and the systems of governance. Public functionaries are often beholden to these feudal lords, who have been known to exert considerable pressure on them, and in extreme cases, effect transfers of officials who are not responsive to their demands. As a result, the lower bureaucracy and service provision network is highly politicised, with decisions on the location of facilities, staffing and recruitment being taken not on the basis of financial considerations or merit, but to oblige local feudal lords and their lackeys. A country's future growth potential and ability to reduce poverty is strongly dependent on its stock of social capital, and investment made to increase that stock. The level of human development in Pakistan is currently very low, and little improvement has taken place during the first decade of the new millennium. Irrespective of whether the country was governed by military or civilian governments, the social sectors have been consistently neglected with the bulk of budgetary expenditure being concentrated on defence and debt servicing. The limited resources allocated to the social sectors also tend to be used ineffectively, and social service delivery is largely inefficient and substandard. The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is PPPs main social safety net entrusted with the task of setting up systems for the provision of targeted social assistance to the poor and vulnerable. President Asif Zardari launched the Rs34 billion programme with great expectations from the potential beneficiaries. Under the scheme, three million families with earnings of less than Rs6,000 per month will be paid Rs2,000 every two months. The initial reaction to the BISP has not been adverse. But the opposition finds that it is too centralised, complicated and non-transparent. Although Zardari said that the implementation of the programme would be above political affiliations. However, BISP's management board, which currently comprises only PPP members, needs to be expanded to include representatives of other political parties, NGOs and relevant individuals. Moreover, the programme requires each MNA and Senator to be allocated 8,000 forms, which will have to be verified by a union councillor, as well as the parliamentarian, before being mailed to NADRA. The annual amount per parliamentarian comes to Rs96 million. Anyway, the distribution of cash is not a long-term solution to the deep-rooted problem of poverty. But even if it was, the monthly Rs1,000 given to the head of each recipient family translates into Rs167 per month per person. Even at one dollar a day, the monthly income requirement is Rs2,550 per person. The BISP support is thus only 6.5 percent of the requirement of a dollar a day; this is recognised at the highest level in the government. Subject to the availability of resources, its allocation will be increased. The medium term objective of the programme is to promote human development through, among others, developing, testing, and instituting graduation strategies such as conditional cash transfers and complementary programmes such as micro-finance, skill development and health insurance. To promote household independence and to upgrade the poor beneficiaries to the level of self-sufficiency various initiatives like training and employment of one person per household and the provision of workfare through small public works under a social mobilisation programme are also being considered. Notwithstanding the said efforts, the initiative Self-Employment Initiative to permanently bring out families from extreme poverty by giving loans for their self-employment, Health Insurance a healthcare financing scheme aimed at improving access to health services and reducing income loss from catastrophic health shocks for the poor and Vocational Training to create and initiate market demand based jobs or business opportunities for beneficiaries, who can make their livelihood sustainable, are being carried out by BISP from its regular budgetary support from the government. These are significant initiatives that were adopted in piecemeal in the past. As a result of the 18th Amendment, BISP appears to be federal in nature and goes against the principles of devolution and provincial autonomy. For its execution, it is totally dependent on provincial and local administration. It would be to the advantage of its implementers if various aspects of the huge undertaking could be discussed in Parliament. This will help improve and strengthen the implementing structure of the programme. The writer is a retired secretary of the Government of Pakistan. He is a member of the former Civil Service of Pakistan. Email: