Written by Summaiyya Qureshi 11:49 am Articles, Current Affairs, Pakistan, Published Content

The Suspension of Ehsaas & Other Welfare Initiatives

During his term as the prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan introduced numerous welfare projects. The Ehsaas program, in particular, has been a source of salvation for many Pakistanis. Summaiyya Qureshi notes that since the PDM government has assumed power, PTI-led projects like Panagah, the Ehsaas Langar program, Mera Pakistan Mera Ghar housing scheme, and the Miyawaki forest project have been suspended. Given the situation in Pakistan, the suspension of these projects has dire consequences for the state’s lower class.
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Ms Summaiyya Qureshi completed her bachelor's degree in International Relations from the Lahore College for Women University, Lahore.  Her areas of interest include geopolitics, foreign policy analysis, and nuclearization.

After the momentous vote of no confidence against ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan on April 10, 2022, in Pakistan, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) established a coalition government, with Shahbaz Sharif as prime minister. The new administration is in severe difficulties since Pakistan is dealing with a slew of issues, including inflation, an energy crisis, a petroleum crisis, IMF issues, and an internal political crisis, all of which are interfering with and causing price hikes in Pakistan.

There were many initiatives implemented by the previous government to help low-income people. However, it appears that these programs are being discontinued or abandoned by the present administration owing to the country’s economic difficulties. However, without programs like Ehsaas projects (Panagah, and Ehsaas Langar program), Mera Pakistan Mera Ghar housing scheme, and a zero petroleum levy, Pakistan’s periphery class is in serious jeopardy. Even the semi-periphery class appears to be struggling with the present economic scenario.

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Ehsaas Projects

The Panagah program of the Ehsaas project is a historic effort launched by the government of Imran Khan. This project aimed to give fully prepared shelter houses to homeless individuals who spend their nights underneath the open sky and those who are away from home and cannot afford hotel accommodations. Bedding, food twice a day, quilts, and everything else is supplied in the panagahs (shelters) to make them feel at home.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government allocated 6 billion rupees for the Panagah caste scheme. During Imran Khan’s tenure, about 20 million individuals have been served at the shelter homes. According to Mr. Rahman, chief executive officer of the Imran Khan Foundation, almost 135 Panagahs serve people across the country. During the pandemic, even a proper health system named “Apna doctor” was formed to facilitate the people living in the shelter home. Panagahs were also sanitized during Covid-19.

Imran Khan also introduced the Ehsaas Sailani Langar initiative in 2019, intending to combat hunger across the country. The goal of this initiative was to offer clean, sanitary food to the underprivileged. Aside from that, a scheme named Langar on Wheels provided meals to quarantine centers in Lahore during Covid 19 times.

However, according to the PTI report on the PDM government’s performance in the first 90 days, these programs have been suspended.

Mera Pakistan Mera Ghar Housing Scheme

Mera Pakistan Mera Ghar (MPMG) Housing Scheme is a part of the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme, in which banks give funds for the building and purchasing of houses at highly affordable prices. In 2020, the PTI administration initiated this initiative. The former Prime Minister had approved a hundred billion for this initiative.

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Since then, applications totaling Rs. 473.7 billion have been submitted under the MPMG program. Housing loans up to 10 million rupees will be issued under the plan with a markup ranging from 3% to 9% for the first ten years, after which they would be based on market rates. However, according to Finance Minister Muftah Ismail, the government has now halted the plan stating:

“Many people are writing to me that their loans were approved in the Mera Ghar scheme and that they have spent money based on that approval. I want to assure you that we are reshaping the scheme and no one will lose their money. We will resolve the issue within the next week.”

Zero Petroleum Levy

Fuel tax/fuel levy is the amount of tax per litre of fuel sold. During his regime, Khan reduced the sales tax on petroleum goods from 17 percent to zero. On November 16, 2021, his state minister for media and television broke the news, further stating that the “previous administration used to collect high taxes on petrol despite reduced global prices.”

It was a massive relief for the Pakistani people. However, after the regime change, the National Assembly approved a Rs 50 per litre petroleum development levy on all petroleum items. Whereas, the current finance minister told the House that 50 rupees could not be enforced all at once and argued, “Presently, there is zero petroleum levy.” He further explained that the levy will be gradually increased by Rs 5 per month to reach a maximum of Rs 50, as approved by the House.

Tax Culture Enhancement Programs

Base broadening is the process of increasing the amount of economic activity subject to taxation by reducing deductions, exemptions, discounts, credits, and other preferential treatments. The Tax Base Expansion Program has been canceled. The PTI left behind a database of 43 million prospective taxpayers. It also created the Federal Board of Revenue’s first-ever track and trade system in the hopes of increasing tax collection and reforming the tax system of Pakistan.

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The former prime minister emphasized the need to develop and enhance the tax culture by guaranteeing citizens that their taxes will be used to benefit children. However, the current administration has discontinued these two projects.

Miyawaki Forest Project

Imran Khan’s Miyawaki forest project for clean and green Pakistan also seems to be suspended as no funds have been approved for Miyawaki forest. The Hamza Shahbaz government did not give funds for the three new forest projects in Rawalpindi. The Miyawaki forest project was a government endeavor to reduce pollution because trees cover only 4.8 percent of Pakistan’s total geographical area.

Whereas for a healthy ecology, 25% forest cover is essential. Imran Khan dubbed this effort “Trillion Trees Tsunami,” with the goal of planting 160,000 trees on every 100 canals. It is a Japanese technique in which the plant grows in a short period of four months. The plants are placed 2.5 feet apart so that they may proliferate.

So, many worthwhile projects have been suspended by the new government despite being worthy of paying for. These projects seem to be for social welfare for helping and sorting low-income people or homeless issues and not for any political agenda, especially the Miyawaki forest project and the Ehsaas program projects like Panagah and the Langar project. So, projects like these must be activated again as many people have become homeless after Panagah and Langar’s suspension.

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