Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) lawmakers seem to have a different idea of what a welfare program is supposed to be compared to the common conception of such initiatives. Where the world believes that a welfare program is supposed to financially help the poorest and the most destitute people in the country regardless of race, creed or political affiliation, PTI lawmakers feel that the government’s welfare program should only cater to the ruling party’s workers and voters – a kind of financial reward for supporting the party.

This is not some personally held desire either, one that is on spoken off only in private meetings, but a publically stated goal for which the PTI lawmakers have agitated and turned on one of their own. At a recent meeting of the party’s parliamentary committee, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan no less, PTI lawmakers attacked Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Sania Nishtar for not giving any relief to party workers, and instead benefiting the members of the opposition. So aggressive was their demand for financial rewards that they prevented Dr Nishtar from speaking.

This episode once more peels back the veneer of PTI’s “welfare state”. PTI lawmakers are willing to throw the poorest in the society under the bus because their political beliefs align with the opposition. Not only that, they expect - demand even - financial reward for backing the ruling government. While their leader talks about selfless service and financial accountability, party lawmakers see funds earmarked for the poor as their personal piggy bank, with which to reward loyal workers. If their contention is that the opposition had used the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) – which the Ehsas program has appropriated under its own name – to reward its own supporters then their demands are not justified either. Instead of correcting the perversion of the welfare program, they only seek to turn it around and benefit themselves.

It is a shame the “accountability party” is comprised of such individuals, shame further still that all of this happened under the chairmanship of Imran Khan.