MUZAFFARABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif launched the National Health Programme in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Thursday, saying it was a mark of distinction for him and his government to see the scheme being implemented in the country.

“The national health programme is not an instantaneous initiative, but part of the PML-N’s manifesto and its implementation was under consideration for the past several months,” he said at the launching ceremony held in the auditorium of AJK Medical College.

Over 82,300 people in Muzaffarabad district and 79,400 in Kotli district would benefit from the programme in the first phase.

Recalling the launch of the programme in Islamabad on Dec 31, the prime minister cited the example of a penurious person selling French fries who had received cardiac treatment in a major health facility in the federal capital under the programme.

Appreciating individuals and institutions providing free treatment to the poor, he said the programme was a step towards implementation of the government’s objective of providing free treatment to all people.

He said that though development of communication network, eradication of terrorism and augmentation of energy resources needed attention of the government, problems of the poor must also be solved.

“It’s all the more necessary to assuage problems of the poor so that they don’t have to sell their belongings for getting medical treatment,” he said.

Initially, the programme was launched in 23 districts, but the prime minister announced that it would soon be expanded to the entire country, including the AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

The prime minister mentioned his daughter for her efforts for the launch of the programme along with others.

He announced a donation of two buses and Rs100 million for the students of Muzaffarabad Medical College.

Earlier, AJK President Sardar Mohammad Yaqoob Khan, Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, Minister of State for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar and AJK Health Minister Sardar Qamaruz Zaman spoke.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2016