Is Pakistan's Social Sector Making Progress?

If you read Pakistan media headlines and donation-seeking NGOs and activists' reports these days, you'd conclude that the social sector situation is entirely hopeless. However, if you look at children's education and health trend lines based on data from credible international sources, you would feel a sense of optimism. This exercise gives new meaning to what former US President Bill Clinton has said: Follow the trend lines, not the headlines. Unlike the alarming headlines, the trend lines in Pakistan show rising school enrollment rates and declining infant mortality rates.

Key Social Indicators:
The quickest way to assess Pakistan's social sector progress is to look at two key indicators:  School enrollment rates and infant mortality. These basic social indicators capture the state of schooling, nutrition and health care. Pakistan is continuing to make slow but steady progress on both of these indicators. Anything that can be done to accelerate the pace will help Pakistan move up to higher levels as proposed by Dr. Hans Rosling and adopted by the United Nations.
Pakistan Children 5-16 In-Out of School. Source: Pak Alliance For M...

Rising Primary Enrollment:
Gross enrollment in Pakistani primary schools exceeded 97% in 2016, up from 92% ten years ago. Gross enrollment rate (GER) is different from net enrollment rate (NER). The former refers to primary enrollment of all students of all ages while the latter counts enrolled students as percentage of students in the official primary age bracket. The primary NER in Pakistan is significantly lower but the higher GER indicates many of these kids eventually enroll in primary schools albeit at older ages. 
Source: World Bank Education Statistics
Declining Infant Mortality Rate: 
The infant mortality rate (IMR), defined as the number of deaths in children under 1 year of age per 1000 live births in the same year, is universally regarded as a highly sensitive (proxy) measure of population health.  A declining rate is an indication of improving health. IMR in Pakistan has declined from 86 in 1990-91 to 74 in 2012-13 and 62 in the latest survey in 2017-18.

Pakistan Child Mortality Rates. Source: PDHS 2017-18

During the 5 years immediately preceding the survey, the infant mortality rate (IMR) was 62 deaths per 1,000 live births. The child mortality rate was 13 deaths per 1,000 children surviving to age 12 months, while the overall under-5 mortality rate was 74 deaths per 1,000 live births. Eighty-four percent of all deaths among children under age 5 in Pakistan take place before a child’s first birthday, with 57% occurring during the first month of life (42 deaths per 1,000 live births).

Pakistan Human Development Trajectory 1990-2018.Source: Pakistan HD...

Human Development Ranking:

It appears that improvements in education and health care indicators in Pakistan are slower than other countries in South Asia region. Pakistan's human development ranking plunged to 150 in 2018, down from 149 in 2017.

Expected Years of Schooling in Pakistan by Province 

There was a noticeable acceleration of human development in #Pakistan during Musharraf years. Pakistan HDI rose faster in 2000-2008 than in periods before and after. Pakistanis' income, education and life expectancy also rose faster than Bangladeshis' and Indians' in 2000-2008.

Now Pakistan is worse than Bangladesh at 136, India at 130 and Nepal at 149. The decade of democracy under Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has produced the slowest annual human development growth rate in the last 30 years. The fastest growth in Pakistan human development was seen in 2000-2010, a decade dominated by President Musharraf's rule, according to the latest Human Development Report 2018.

UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) represents human progress in one indicator that combines information on people’s health, education and income.

Pakistan's Human Development Growth Rate By Decades. Source: HDR 2018

Pakistan saw average annual HDI (Human Development Index) growth rate of 1.08% in 1990-2000, 1.57% in 2000-2010 and 0.95% in 2010-2017, according to Human Development Indices and Indicators 2018 Statistical Update.  The fastest growth in Pakistan human development was seen in 2000-2010, a decade dominated by President Musharraf's rule, according to the latest Human Development Report 2018.

Pakistan Human Development Growth 1990-2018. Source: Pakistan HDR 2019

Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future:

Pakistani leaders should heed the recommendations of a recent report by the World Bank titled "Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future" regarding investments in the people. Here's a key excerpt of the World Bank report:

"Pakistan’s greatest asset is its people – a young population of 208 million. This large population can transform into a demographic dividend that drives economic growth. To achieve that, Pakistan must act fast and strategically to: i) manage population growth and improve maternal health, ii) improve early childhood development, focusing on nutrition and health, and iii) boost spending on education and skills for all, according to the report".
Pakistani Children 5-16 Currently Enrolled. Source: Pak Alliance Fo...


The state of Pakistan's social sector is not as dire as the headlines suggest. There's reason for optimism. Key indicators show that education and health care in Pakistan are improving but such improvements are slower than in other countries in South Asia region. Pakistan's human development ranking plunged to 150 in 2018, down from 149 in 2017. It is worse than Bangladesh at 136, India at 130 and Nepal at 149. The decade of democracy under Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has produced the slowest annual human development growth rate in the last 30 years. The fastest growth in Pakistan human development was seen in 2000-2010, a decade dominated by President Musharraf's rule, according to the latest Human Development Report 2018. One of the biggest challenges facing the PTI government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan is to significantly accelerate human development rates in Pakistan.
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Comment by Riaz Haq on June 29, 2019 at 7:26pm

Every third child is underweight in Pakistan: survey

The National Nutrition Survey 2018-19 has painted a bleak picture of children’s health, stating that “every third child” in the country “is underweight”.

The survey was released on Monday during a ceremony chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza and attended by Health Secretary Zahid Saeed, National AIDS Control Programme Manager Dr Basir Achakzai, Unicef representative and others.

The survey was compiled by experts working under the auspices of the Ministry of Health and Unicef.

The report stated, “Breast-feeding has increased in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), while malnutrition in Balochistan and erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).”

It stated, “Every four out of 10 children are malnourished. Over 40% children are affected by malnutrition in which the number of girls is higher than that of boys.”

Giving the break-up of the malnourished children, the report stated, “In the country, 40.9% boys are malnourished, while 39.4% girls are victims of malnutrition and 28% are underweight.

“Over 9% children are overweight. During the last seven years, the number of overweight children has doubled as in 2011 only 5% children were overweight while now the ratio stands at 9.5%. About 50% girls in Pakistan suffer from anemia while 48.4 % children are given mother’s milk. The ratio of children being fed mother’s milk stands at over 60% in K-P.

“In Pakistan, 36.9% of the population face malnutrition. In Balochistan, 50% people are malnourished while in erstwhile Fata the ratio is 54.6%.”

Addressing the ceremony, Health Adviser Dr Zafar Mirza said, “In line with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Ministry of Health is taking drastic measures to overcome malnutrition.”
Mirza said, “The data obtained from the survey will help in policy making and devising strategies.”

He said they would join hands with the provinces in taking effective steps in the field of nutrition in light of the data obtained.

“The incumbent government has already decided to tackle the biggest issue – undernourishment, especially in women and children,” said the PM’s aide, adding that the national survey had revealed that 40% children under the age of five were victims of stunting.

Mirza acknowledged the fact that positive signs regarding more women feeding their milk to their newborns were received. “About 10% improvement has been recorded in mothers feeding their children their own milk.”

Mirza said, “The ratio of people consuming clean water has increased, whereas only 21% water has been found fit for consumption.”
He said information and steps regarding women giving birth had improved. “About 63% women come to clinics when they are pregnant, while 68% avail the expertise of experts, which has reduced the ratio of death among newborns,” said Mirza.

About anemia, Mirza said, “Several women and children suffer from this condition. It has been reported that over 50% children suffer from anemia, while 62% lack Vitamin A.”

He said that there had been an increase in the consumption of iodine salt, which “is a positive sign”.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 26, 2019 at 4:33pm

Last Resort: #India and #Pakistan's Informal #Schools. The stories of struggle by children of marginalized communities in India and Pakistan have an uncanny resemblance. When governments fail, people rise to help their communities. #education@Diplomat_APAC

Pooja is enrolled at a small makeshift school with a frail structure and temporary ceiling that shivers when strong winds blow.

“I want to become a teacher,” she says in a brittle voice.

Her face glows with joy every time she talks about her school. Pooja’s school is no ordinary school. She receives education at a mobile school.

Across the Radcliffe line in Maripur, Karachi, approximately, 1,000 kilometers away from Pooja, lives Roshail Atta Mahommad. The 17-year-old’s life has an uncanny resemblance to Pooja’s situation. She too has defied all social and cultural odds for education. Roshail, like Pooja, wants to become a teacher and contribute to her community’s well-being.

Even after 70 years of independence, millions of children in India and Pakistan are deprived of education. Both countries are confronting the perils of their failure to educate their citizens, notably the poor. Pooja and Roshail are among the deprived generation who were left out of the state-run education system in their respective countries.

The two may be divided by the border, but they are united by the failure of their governments to fulfill their basic fundamental right to education.

For decades governments in India have made tall symbolic promises about improving the state of education in India. They’ve conceived policies and plans that have been nothing more than toothless paper tigers. The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP)-led government in Delhi has slashed education spending by nearly 50 percent in the last 4 years. Such misplaced national priorities deprive many like Pooja of education — a promised universal birthright.

Echoes of similar hollow political promises are also responsible for the burgeoning education crisis in Pakistan.

The two nuclear rivals inherited innumerable common issues. Education is one of them. In many ways their approaches to the issue have been similar too. The two arch-rivals have identical laws that ensure free and compulsory education but little has been done to implement them. The Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE) in India recognizes free and compulsory education for children between the age of 6 and 14, under Article 21a of the Indian Constitution. Similarly, in Pakistan Article 25-A of the constitution guarantees the right to free education to all children between the ages of 5 to 16. The right to education was enacted, in both countries, with the idea to improve the state of education, but it has been haunted by procedural inefficiencies.


The Heroes
When governments fail to deliver fundamental rights, people rise to help their communities. Sandeep Rajput in India and Gamwar Baloch in Pakistan are two such heroes.

The mobile school, run by Rajput, 41, is a free education facility on wheels. Rajput is known for chasing illiteracy in decrepit areas of Gurgaon in an old public bus. The decommissioned vehicle, once used by commuters, is now reconfigured to serve as a classroom on wheels. It is equipped with small tables and everything else a teacher might need to run a classroom. Rajput’s school on wheels, as it’s commonly known, is also recognized by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).

Like Rajput, Pakistan too has a warrior, who fights against an unfair educational system. In 2013, Gamwar Baloch, 21, established a makeshift school named “Tikri Education Center.” The school provides free education to the deprived students in Maripur — a neighborhood of Kiamari town in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi. Baloch helps those who have been neglected by the state and are at the very bottom of Pakistan’s social ladder.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 21, 2019 at 7:48am

All You Need to Know About PM Imran Khan’s Poverty Alleviation Program ‘Ehsas’

What is Ehsas?
Ehsas is Pakistan’s biggest and boldest program for poverty eradication which aims to collaborate with all stakeholders—public, private, civil society, philanthropists, and expatriate Pakistanis towards one collective goal – poverty alleviation. The Poverty Alleviation Coordination Council, chaired by Dr. Sania Nishtar, developed the program after extensive consultation. It aims to change the lives of at least 3.3 million poor people in the next four years.

PM Khan has allocated a massive amount of Rs. 80 billion –expendable to Rs. 120 billion by 2021 – for his anti-poverty derive which, according to him, is founded on the importance of strengthening institutions, transparency, and good governance.

Following these necessary steps, Imran vowed to convert Pakistan into a welfare state where jobless, poor farmers and laborers, the sick and undernourished, lower-middle-class students, poor widows, and helpless elderly citizens are well taken care of. The program targets not only the underprivileged but also aims to provide them with the means to uplift their social status.

Welfare State
Pakistan is currently in Elite capture –where public resources are meant for a few families from the elite class. He wants to break the shackles by spending public money on the general public. The program Ehsas aims to empower the women economically; focus on the role of human capital formation for poverty alleviation, economic growth, and sustainable development.

The Four Pillars of Ehsas
According to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement, his poverty eradication drive is grounded on four fundamental pillars: countering elite capture and making the government system work to create equality; safety nets for disadvantaged segments of the population; jobs and livelihoods; and human capital development.

In the following lines, we’ll discuss all four pillars of Ehsas in detail.

I. Countering Elite Capture & Inequality of System

The first and foremost part of this anti-poverty campaign is combatting the elite capture and inequity in the system which provides all the necessary facilities to the privileged only – be it tax relief, water distribution, crop choices, law & order, land use priorities and much more.

To cater all these issues, Khan plans to introduce a new Constitutional amendment to move article 38(d) from the “Principles of Policy” section into the “Fundamental Rights” section – this minor tweak will make the provision of food, clothing, housing, education, and medical relief for citizens who cannot earn a livelihood due to infirmity, sickness or unemployment, a state responsibility.

Secondly, he aims to increase social protection spending. In the fiscal year 2019-20 – an additional amount of Rs. 80 billion will be added to the social protection spending, which will increase to Rs. 120 billion in the next fiscal year.

By digitizing the data of the poor class, the government aims to collaborate with pro-poor organizations to help needy. It is also going to earmark resources for pro-poor sectors to prevent channeling of funds to other sectors through ad hoc decision-making.

He said that a one-window social protection operation would be conducted to avoid any duplication and abuse.

Pakistan’s first ever official report on multidimensional poverty was released in 2016, and it revealed shocking figures. According to the study, 39 percent (38.8%) of Pakistanis live in multidimensional poverty, while 24.4 percent of those don’t even have enough money to satisfy their basic needs.

To facilitate all of them, the government needs a database – and for this purpose, the government is establishing the National Socioeconomic Registry 2019 which will make the database of the poor class. Multiple validation procedures will be run for the collected data through follow-up review surveys to identify the real poor correctly.

Once the data is completed, the government will roll out two social protection programs Kifalat (sponsorship or support) and Tahaffuz (protection). Both programs will be run through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).

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Kifalat: Under the program, 5.7 million women across the country will get savings accounts in the nearby banks on one woman one bank account policy. The women of impoverished areas, without the bank facilities, will be given mobile phones to receive the funds.

As many as 5000 ‘Digital Hubs’ will be established on Tehsil level all over the country which will provide details about job opportunities for the local youth and will make the government’s digital resources accessible.

Tahaffuz: Tahaffuz or Protection will provide one-time financial aid to the poor against catastrophic events. This may aid interest-free easy loans for house-building (especially for landless farmers), free legal assistance in severe cases, financial aid for widows who don’t have children earning money, Ehsas homes for orphan children, Panah-gahs for homeless people, Sehat Card for 3.3 million people.

Welfare for Elderly: An increment in the Old Age Benefit and minimum pension for elderly citizens, the establishment of Great Ehsas Homes (Old Age Homes) through Bait-ul-Maal.

Government Increases Old-Age Pension By 20 Percent |
Labour Welfare: Creation of a labor expert group to provide its recommendations to address the following labor-related issues: loopholes in the existing laws which either keep the workers out of jobs or pay them poorly. The group will suggest amendments in the rules for minimum wage, and health and safety regulations, welfare and pension schemes for the informal sector.

Overseas Pakistanis

In a statement during a formal dinner with Saudi Royal Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Prime Minister Imran Khan requested him to take care of the Pakistani expatriates in Saudi Arabia and said:

Please take very good care of my people (in the Kingdom). They leave their families and everything behind to work abroad. They are very near to my heart.

His statement is reflected in the Ehsas program which suggests policy making for the welfare of overseas Pakistanis. The program aims to increase the number of community Welfare Attaches and Protector of Immigrants Officers to facilitate the expatriates. It will also involve well-reputed and well-off expatriates to facilitate the working class Pakistanis abroad.

It includes policy making to allow free or subsidized air tickets to low-paid workers and productive negotiations with the governments to extend the duration of the working permit for unskilled labors as they hardly recover the cost of immigration their permit’s duration ends.

III. Human Capital Development
poor children pakistan
Human capital development plays a significant role in the wealth of a nation and requires prioritizing investments in the early years by controlling malnutrition, providing preschool or early education and protecting children from harm.

This will help against stunting in children by providing de-worming drugs, iron, folic acid, micronutrient supplements through government hospitals. Besides setting up a Multi-sectoral Nutrition Coordinating Body and the first-ever university-hosted National Centre for Human Nutrition, it also includes the 5+1 model of desi chicken and goat asset transfer, kitchen gardening, seed distribution for poverty alleviation and nutrition.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 16, 2019 at 8:20am

In Pakistan, it’s middle class rising
S. Akbar Zaidi

he general perception still, and unfortunately, held by many people, foreigners and Pakistanis, is that Pakistan is largely an agricultural, rural economy, where “feudals” dominate the economic, social, and particularly political space. Nothing could be further from this outdated, false framing of Pakistan’s political economy. Perhaps the single most significant consequence of the social and structural transformation under way for the last two decades has been the rise and consolidation of a Pakistani middle class, both rural, but especially, urban.


Girls shining
Data based on social, economic and spatial categories all support this argument. While literacy rates in Pakistan have risen to around 60%, perhaps more important has been the significant rise in girls’ literacy and in their education. Their enrolment at the primary school level, while still less than it is for boys, is rising faster than it is for boys. What is even more surprising is that this pattern is reinforced even for middle level education where, between 2002-03 and 2012-13, there had been an increase by as much as 54% when compared to 26% for that of boys. At the secondary level, again unexpectedly, girls’ participation has increased by 53% over the decade, about the same as it has for boys. While boys outnumber girls in school, girls are catching up. In 2014-15, it was estimated that there were more girls enrolled in Pakistan’s universities than boys — 52% and 48%, respectively. Pakistan’s middle class has realised the significance of girls’ education, even up to the college and university level.

In spatial terms, most social scientists would agree that Pakistan is almost all, or at least predominantly, urban rather than rural, even though such categories are difficult to concretise. Research in Pakistan has revealed that at least 70% of Pakistanis live in urban or urbanising settlements, and not in rural settlements, whatever they are. Using data about access to urban facilities and services such as electricity, education, transport and communication connectivity, this is a low estimate. Moreover, even in so-called “rural” and agricultural settlements, data show that around 60% or more of incomes accrue from non-agricultural sources such as remittances and services. Clearly, whatever the rural is, it is no longer agricultural. Numerous other sets of statistics would enhance the middle class thesis in Pakistan.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 18, 2019 at 7:40pm

Bombed by the Taliban: UAE brings schools to thousands denied an education in Pakistan
A joint initiative in the Swat valley has seen dozens of schools rebuilt after being destroyed by militants

Growing up, all Naeem Hakeem had wanted was to study to become an electrical engineer.

But in 2008, his dream was shattered when the Pakistan Taliban blew up his school in the country’s north-west Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The militants had emerged as a dominant force in the mountainous Swat valley district, and had begun enforcing a strict version of Islam.

They banned modern education for both boys and girls as part of their efforts to prevent any semblance of a modern education system.

A year later, Naeem, along with his family, had no choice but to leave their home when the Pakistan military launched a counter-offensive.

The area became too dangerous to risk staying, with frequent firefights between combatants as well as numerous deadly roadside bombings.

“That was the most terrible moment of my life, seeing my school being burnt out in front of my eyes,” Hakeem, now 21, told The National.

“I spent around two years in a makeshift tent, far away from my hometown and missed my education too. Three years of my life were wasted.”

Hakeem, now an undergraduate student in Swat’s capital Saidu Sharif, told how - more than a decade later - his life was finally back on track.

He and his family were able to return to his rural hometown of Matta in 2011, and he had since resumed his studies.

The reason for his change of fortune, he revealed, was largely down to a UAE decision to help fund the rebuilding of dozens of schools in Swat.

Through the UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme, the Emirates has allocated $41.52 million (Dh152m) for the reconstruction of 60 schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

More than 50 have already been built, with an initial focus on two districts – Swat and South Waziristan. More than 30,000 students are now enrolled.

“The militants had blown up our school at night, making it unable to be used for education purposes,” said Mohammad Alam, 48, a teacher at Government Boys High School Ahingaro Dherai – a second school just outside the town of Mingora that also became a target.

“But you can’t imagine [how incredible it is] now seeing this beautiful two-storey building constructed with the financial assistance of the UAE.”

According to UNICEF, Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children, with an estimated 22.8 million aged between 5-16 not attending classes.

The 2018-19 Pakistan Economic Survey found the country’s literacy rate for those aged 15 and above was at 57 per cent.

Meanwhile, Maldives tops the South Asia region at 98.6 per cent, followed by Sri Lanka at 91.2 per cent, Iran at 84.7 per cent and India at 69.3 per cent.

Because of the fighting in Swat, child literacy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is now lower than the national average, at 55 per cent.

But that statistic is fast being improved, due in part to the intervention of international donors such as the UAE.

The Swat valley now has a total of 1,647 public schools, Dr Jawad Iqbal, an education activist, revealed.

“I got admission in this school for its excellent environment for female students,” said Fatima Ali, a 10th grade student whose name has been changed to protect her identity.

Her school, some six kilometres outside of Mingora, and was first set fire to and then completely demolished by the Pakistan Taliban.

“My parents couldn’t afford private schools’ fee, so I had to wait till reconstruction of this school in my area,” she said. Now, as many as 1,300 students study at the new premises built by the UAE.

“The UAE is developing many humanitarian projects in Pakistan and our special focus is on improving education facilities for the youth,” said Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Al Zaabi, the UAE’s Ambassador to Pakistan.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 21, 2019 at 7:37pm

65.6% #BISP recipients perceive Benazir #Bhutto and her family to be the source of BISP money being received by the beneficiaries. #Pakistan #PPP

In comes this on-going research by Rehan Rafay Jamil, a PhD Candidate at Brown University, whose thesis essentially explores the subject of social policy and changing citizenship boundaries in Pakistan, where one of the key questions being explored is whether or not cash transfers programs create more active citizenship.

Speaking at Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund's third conference on research and learning held on Oct 30-31,2019, Jamil's survey findings reveal that both beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries of BISP perceive Benazir Bhutto and her family to be the source of BISP money being received by the beneficiaries. The percentage was higher in the case of beneficiaries (65.6%) compared to the non- beneficiaries (60.3%) – but both segments thought that late PM and her family are the source of this financial assistance, rather than the federal government in power.

But before PTI supporters cry foul, here is another finding worth brooding over. Jamil's sample-based research in Faisalabad, Muzaffargarh, Hyderabad and Thatta also found out that despite beneficiaries' close association of BISP with Benazir Bhutto and her family, voting patterns were split between those who voted for the PPP and those who voted for the Shirazis (or the independents) in the last general election. In other words, BISP's close association with the late PM and her party does not reinforce clientelism.

Hopefully Jamil would expand this research to explore province-wise responses, and perhaps by districts that have high percentage of BISP beneficiaries as against those that have much less percentage of beneficiaries. Other nuggets from Jamil's ongoing research are also sort of myth-busting or at least raise important questions.

For instance, many critics argue that handouts such as cash grants under BISP or free food under Ehsaas-Saylani Langar Scheme (ESLS) make beggars out of people and erode basic human dignity. Jamil's research thus far instead shows that these social welfare programmes do not appear to create social stigma. If anything, the impact is quite the reverse.

His preliminary findings show that a vast majority of beneficiaries and their male household members reported feelings of “pride and dignity on being cash transfer recipients" and “being recognized by the state as citizens".

This coils back the discussion to earlier question whether or not cash transfers programs create more active citizenship. Jamil seems to be resting his thought on the notion of ‘citizenship as a bundle of rights', including the right to social welfare that often creates a sense of affiliation and belonging with the society at large.

It should not come as a surprise if Pakistan's government, current or next, ends up citing this research (once completed), especially the virtues of how social welfare increases citizenship to justify expansion in social welfare.

But in that vein, while state's social welfare may well be a necessary condition to achieve higher level of citizenship among citizens, it is surely not a sufficient condition. And in the absence of full spectrum of political, economic and civic rights, expansion in social welfare can only increase the level of citizenship to a certain degree. If anything, if the state grants its citizens the full spectrum of political, economic and civic rights, the need for social welfare programme may in fact grow less, not more.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 21, 2019 at 7:44pm

BISP, Citizenship and Rights Claims in Pakistan

By Rehan Rafay Jamil
Taking Stock of Ten Years of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP)

Over ten years since its establishment, the Benazir Income Support Progamme (BISP) has become Pakistan’s largest social safety net, providing coverage to over 5.6 million women and their households across the country. The expansion of BISP over the past decade marks an important shift in social policy in Pakistan. BISP has now been overseen by three elected governments and has resulted in a significant increase in federal fiscal allocations for social protection. Despite vocal reservations about its name expressed by some political parties, the program remains Pakistan’s largest flagship poverty alleviation program with international recognition.[1]

Third party impact evaluations of BISP have largely focused on its poverty alleviation, nutritional and gender empowerment impacts.[2] [3] These evaluations point to important reductions in poverty and improved nutritional levels for beneficiaries and their households. Oxford Policy Management’s 2016 evaluation finds reductions in BISP households’ reliance on casual labor and an increase in household savings and asset accumulation.[3]

BISP is one of the largest cash transfer programs targeted exclusively at women in the Global South, making the gender impacts of BISP important to understand. In their evaluation, Ambler and De Brauw (2017) find some changes in gender norms and attitudes amongst beneficiaries and their families. Their study finds that female beneficiaries are more likely to have greater mobility to visit friends without their spouse’s permission, are less likely to tolerate domestic violence and male members are more likely to contribute to household work.

BISP and the transition from Cash Transfer Beneficiaries to Citizens

The evaluation reports provide some evidence that BISP has also had a wider set of intended and unintended consequences in influencing beneficiaries’ access to public institutions and spaces. Perhaps the most frequently cited impact of BISP has been a marked increase in rural women’s access to computerized national identity cards (CNICs), a prerequisite for obtaining the program. CNICs can be seen as the first step to citizenship and rights claims in Pakistan. The most significant impact of the rapid increase in CNIC registration amongst BISP beneficiaries has been with regards to voting. Ambler and De Brauw (2017) find evidence that BISP beneficiaries are more likely to vote in national elections. But whether BISP beneficiaries are empowered by the cash transfer to make a wider set of rights claims and access local state services, is less clear.

In order to understand some of the changes brought about by BISP in the lives of rural women, I conducted qualitative field work, including in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with beneficiaries and their spouses, in the district of Thatta in Lower Sindh. Thatta has a high proportion of BISP beneficiaries (47 percent), being a high poverty district. The aim of the fieldwork was to develop an understanding of how beneficiaries and their families perceive of BISP and whether the program has brought about any changes in their engagement with local state services.

Beneficiaries’ Perceptions of BISP and the State

One of the most striking findings of the fieldwork was the gendered differences in the perceptions of BISP between beneficiaries and their male household members. The beneficiaries we interviewed were engaged in limited agricultural or domestic labor. They invariably associated the program most closely with Benazir Bhutto, at times even reporting the funds being directly from her and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Responses amongst adult male household members were more varied, with some attributing the program to the Benazir Bhutto or the PPP, while others answered it was a federal government program. A handful of male respondents interviewed believed the program was funded by donor agencies.
Comment by Riaz Haq on December 11, 2019 at 2:49pm

#Pakistan's rank falls from 151 to 152 among 189 nations on human development index. #UNDP gave Pakistan a score of 0.560 that ranks Pakistan as the 2nd last country among Medium Human development countries. #HDI

Pakistan continues to remain among the medium human development countries with its position falling from 151 to 152, according to the 2019 Human Development Index (HDI) released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The UNDP’s Human Development Report (HDR) “Beyond Income, Beyond Averages, Beyond Today: Inequalities in Human Development in the 21st Century” which was launched on Monday in Colombia, gave Pakistan a score of 0.560.

The score puts Pakistan as the second last country among the Medium Human development countries. Solomon Islands is the only country behind Pakistan in the category.

The HDI classifications are based on HDI fixed cutoff points. Countries falling under the cutoff points of less than 0.550 are categorised as low human development, while medium human development are categorised within the range of 0.550–0.699. Scores of 0.700–0.799 is for high human development and 0.800 or greater for very high human development.

According to the data, Pakistan’s life expectancy stands at 67; while the expected years of schooling was at 8.5 years, with the mean years of schooling standing at 5.2. The country’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita was $5,190, the data showed.

However, the trend from 1990 till 2018 showed that Pakistan had steadily improved from being a low human development country to a medium development country.

When the report was first published in 1990, Pakistan scored 0.404. The latest report gave the country a score of 0.560, an overall increase in the score by 1.17 per cent.

The human development approach was developed by Pakistani economist Mahbub Ul Haq and was further improved by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s work on human capabilities. The HDI was created to emphasise that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone.

According to a press release issued by UNDP Pakistan, the report talks about the importance of addressing the different kinds of inequalities in the world today. The report measures the countries’ progress beyond just economic growth, with the ultimate aim of unlocking people’s full potential.

The report analyzes inequality in three steps: beyond income, beyond averages, and beyond today.

“Inequalities exist at all levels of society, starting from the level of the household. As an example, over 22 per cent of under-five children in South Asia experience nutritional inequality at home – where one child in the household is malnourished while a sibling is not,” the statement said.

The report has highlighted that over a third of Pakistani children under the age of five experience such “intra-household inequality”.

Speaking on the release of the report, Resident Representative of UNDP Pakistan Ignacio Artaza stated, “The HDR shows us that inequality is not ‘natural’ or inevitable. However, governments, civil societies, and ordinary citizens need to work together and translate words into concrete actions to ensure that people all over the world can live their lives to their fullest potential”.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 12, 2019 at 6:29pm

Human Development Report 2019
Inequalities in Human Development in the 21st Century
Briefing note for countries on the 2019 Human Development Report

Pakistan’s HDI value for 2018 is 0.560 (India 0.647)— which put the country in the medium human development
category—positioning it at 152 (India 129) out of 189 countries and territories.

The GDI is calculated for 166 countries. The 2018 female HDI value for Pakistan is 0.464 (India 0.574) in contrast with
0.622 (India 0.692) for males, resulting in a GDI value of 0.747, placing it into Group 5. In comparison, GDI values for
Bangladesh and India are 0.895 and 0.829 respectively (see Table D).

Between 1990 and 2018, Pakistan’s HDI value increased from 0.404 to 0.560, an increase of 38.6 percent.
Table A reviews Pakistan’s progress in each of the HDI indicators. Between 1990 and 2018, Pakistan’s life
expectancy at birth increased by 7.0 years, mean years of schooling increased by 2.9 years and expected
years of schooling increased by 3.8 years. Pakistan’s GNI per capita increased by about 62.4 percent
between 1990 and 2018.

Pakistan’s HDI for 2018 is 0.560. However, when the value is discounted for inequality, the HDI falls to
0.386, a loss of 31.1 percent due to inequality in the distribution of the HDI dimension indices. Bangladesh
and India show losses due to inequality of 24.3 percent and 26.3 percent respectively. The average loss due
to inequality for medium HDI countries is 25.9 percent and for South Asia it is 25.9 percent. The Human
inequality coefficient for Pakistan is equal to 30.2 percent (see Table C).

The most recent survey data that were publicly available for Pakistan’s MPI estimation refer to 2017/2018.
In Pakistan, 38.3 percent (India 27.9 percent) of the population (75,520 thousand people) are multidimensionally poor while an
additional 12.9 percent (India 19.37 percent) are classified as vulnerable to multidimensional poverty (25,454 thousand people).
The breadth of deprivation (intensity) in Pakistan, which is the average deprivation score experienced by
people in multidimensional poverty, is 51.7 percent. The MPI, which is the share of the population that is
multidimensionally poor, adjusted by the intensity of the deprivations, is 0.198. Bangladesh and India have
MPIs of 0.198 and 0.123 respectively.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 4, 2020 at 5:02pm

Donors pledge Rs350 million as Shaukat Khanum Hospital turns 25. Construction of Pakistan’s third and largest #shaukatkhanumhospital in #Karachi is about to begin and it will benefit people of Sindh and Balochistan #Pakistan #Cancer #Hospital @SKMCH

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is chairman of the hospital’s board of governors and celebrities Ali Zafar, Mikaal Zulfiqar, Maya Ali, Hira Mani, Reema Khan, Shoaib Akhter, Javed Miandad, Jahangir Khan, Hamid Mir and Salim Bokhari joined the celebrations to encourage the donors.

At the programme, Imran Khan narrated SKMCH&RC’s journey and said the dream of building a cancer hospital in Pakistan appeared to be unachievable in the beginning, but people’s unprecedented trust and generous support made this possible. He said the hospital has now become a symbol of hope for thousands of cancer patients in the country. “Construction of Pakistan’s third and largest Shaukat Khanum Hospital in Karachi is about to begin and it will benefit people of Sindh and Balochistan. They will be provided state-of-the-art cancer diagnostic and treatment facilities under one roof,” he said.

During the four-hour long programme, SKMCH&RC supporter from across the globe continued to call and pledged Silver Jubilee donations. People also called to become ‘Ambassador of Hope’ for Shaukat Khanum and pledged to donate on a monthly basis. Pledges of Rs350 million were received in a short time. They are the proof that donors’ trust in SKMCH&RC has increased over the period of time.


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