ISLAMABAD   -  Amid criticism by the opposition and their social media fans against the chicken formula introduced by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Washington Post has come up with a report highlighting the positive aspects of the plan giving hope that the anti-poverty plan could make a difference.

Written by Pamela Constable, the Foreign Correspondent of the US-based daily, the report cites an expert from the Poultry Research Institute as well as the people from low-income working class believing that the plan could uplift the living condition of the poor.

The prime minister had announced the anti-poverty program on November 29, this year that comprised the provision of five hens and one rooster to several million poor families, especially rural women, so they could earn income at home by selling eggs.

Though the prime minister’s plan drew headlines and pun-filled tweets, Director Poultry Research Institute Abdul Rehman firmly believed that the project could make a critical difference in the health and livelihood of millions of poor Pakistanis.

 “In Pakistan, 44 percent of children under age 5 have stunted growth due to nutritional deficiency,” Rehman said. “Our high infant mortality rate is associated with malnutrition in mothers. These eggs can add a healthy ingredient to their diets.”

The newborn death rate in Pakistan, about 40 per 1,000 births, is among the highest in the world, according to the World Bank.

The second goal is to provide extra household income for poor families who can sell the eggs. Livestock officials estimate that five hens, laying several eggs each per week, can bring in at least 10,000 rupees ($75) a month — more than the salary of a security guard or construction worker.

By crossing hardy, hand-raised domestic chickens — known as “desi,” or native, poultry — with breeds from Egypt and Australia and with Rhode Island reds, the center has developed birds with the necessary qualities for backyard life: tough, omnivorous, ­disease-resistant and agile.

 “They can live in trees, in boxes or under people’s stairs,” Rehman said. “They can eat kitchen scraps instead of expensive feed, and they can outrun predators like cats and foxes.”

In contrast with the skeptics, many poor and working-class Pakistanis said they were excited to hear about the project and eager to sign up. Even more-affluent families said they appreciated Khan’s continued focus on the plight of the poor, which he vowed to prioritize during his campaign.

 “People may laugh at the prime minister over this, but I laugh at them. It is a wonderful idea,” Zahida Shad said, a middle-class homemaker in Islamabad.

She keeps a half-dozen chickens near the family’s garage, mostly to provide extra nutrition for her grandchildren. “Here in the city, people have money to spend, but they can’t find a single pure thing to eat,” she said.

Sardar Ali Abbas, 55, who owns a crockery shop in Rawalpindi and keeps a few chickens on his roof, applied for the new program right away and is impatiently waiting for it to begin.

He observed that factory-bred chickens are raised to lay more eggs and that while their eggs are larger and whiter than desi eggs, they lack their flavor and oomph.

 “We want the same good food for our children that our parents and grandparents had for us,” Abbas said. “The problem is, desi eggs cost more and they are hard to find. The others are everywhere.”

Rajah and Ghazala Sohail live in Rawalpindi having migrated from rural area in search of steady work and better education for their children.

The couple had been living there since decades and their children were college graduates, but they still missed the village they had left behind. Rajah, a 42-year-old auto-parts seller, recently signed up for the chicken distribution and meanwhile bought a rooster and several hens. He built them a wire coop on the roof, with a heavy curtain to keep out the cold.

 “I loved growing up with buffaloes and goats and chickens. This reminds me of my childhood,” said Ghazala, who feeds the chickens and keeps the roost clean. “Now we can eat better-quality eggs,” she said. “If we can join the program and sell a few extra, that’s a good thing, too.”