Mrs. Farzana Raja, Ex- Member National Assembly of Pakistan was the Federal Minister, founding and former Chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). Mrs. Raja also remained the Vice President of the Young Parliamentarians Forum, focused on the betterment of youth, of the 13th National Assembly of Pakistan. She was also an active member of the Women Parliamentary Caucus of the National Assembly of Pakistan. Mrs. Raja dedicatedly working for the uplift of Pakistani women and deprived segments of the Nation.
Mrs. Farzana Raja has a long time association with the Pakistan Peoples Party and has been at the forefront, as a close confidant of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and later with President Asif Ali Zardari, for the Party’s struggle for democracy and rights of the underprivileged sections of society. Mrs. Raja was for two consecutive terms elected for provincial assembly of Punjab from 2002 to 2007 and National Assembly from 2008 to 2013. She has also served as the first ever woman Secretary Information of Pakistan People’s Party, Punjab. She has always been actively participating in the policy formulation work of the Party, especially in the areas of women empowerment, foreign policy and media relations.
In view of her long-lasting commitment to the poor and vulnerable sections of society and her desire to work for their betterment, she was appointed as Chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) in 2008. It was the time both exogenous as well as indigenous factors had affected Pakistan’s economy severely. Consequently, nascent democratic government of Pakistan had to face the challenges of rising inflation, mounting unemployment and diminishing opportunities for the major sections of society resulting in a major segment of population living below the line of poverty. Providing immediate relief to the common citizen was the biggest challenge facing the government. It was under these tough circumstances that Mrs. Farzana Raja took over as the Chairperson of the BISP. In a span of about four years, she transformed BISP into the largest and most credible ever social protection initiative of the country. It was her devotion to the cause of improving the lives of the millions of poor that BISP has managed to reach out to more than 7 million families in the country. Similar welfare initiatives took other countries like Brazil & Mexico almost a decade to achieve. Through her undaunted commitment to the cause, relentless hard work and strong principles, Mrs. Farzana Raja evolved a culture of transparency in the disbursement of more than 150 billion rupees cash grants amongst the marginalized and the poorest sections of Pakistan.
Mrs. Farzana Raja personally visited all corners of the country, from small villages and refugee camps to the big cities to ensure that truly deserving people are getting the benefits of the Programme.
This commitment, dedication and resolve of Mrs. Raja has won accolades for BISP worldwide. In a meeting with Mrs. Farzana Raja, the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban ki-Moon called BISP “a model for other developing nations”. Among other dignitaries of the world, the World Bank President, the US Secretary of State, the President of Asian Development Bank, President CSIS, Washington DC, the UN Special Envoy on Global Education, UN Assistant Secretary General and Assistant Administrator, UNDP acknowledged the transparency, objectivity and technology based operations of BISP.
In recognition of her righteous services for the nation in general and for the underprivileged in particular, the Government of Pakistan on the occasion of 64th Independence Day of the country conferred on the Ex-Federal Minister and founding Chairperson, BISP Mrs. Farzana Raja the honor of Crescent of Excellence (Hilal-e-Imtiaz, the second highest civilian award of Pakistan). Mrs. Raja was also conferred Human Rights Defender Award on International Human Rights Day by the President of Pakistan. The honor was given to her in recognition of her services for the protection of Human Rights, struggle for democracy and efforts for women empowerment.
Mrs. Raja is married to Dr. Ammar Turabi, who is the founder and the President of Think-Tank International. With a Ph.D. degree in Government Administration, Dr. Turabi is a Certified Foreign and Domestic Diplomatic Policy Consultant. His expertise are USA- Pakistan relations, Transnational Threats, Afghan Crisis, West-Asia diplomacy, Global harmony, Good governance and Democratic/ Constitutional Trends in South Asia. He is long affiliated with the United Press International and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC.