ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed his annoyance over criticism of his government’s 13-month performance and asked his critics to show patience and give him time to bring about a meaningful change in the life of the common man by making the country a true welfare state.
“People are impatient. People say 13 months have passed and where is new Pakistan?,” the prime minister remarked while speaking at a ceremony held to launch ‘Ehsaas Langar (soup kitchen) Scheme’ under an agreement with the Saylani Welfare International Trust (SWIT) here on Monday.
“They (the people) must know that wrong practices of 70 years take time to phase out. But I assure you, this country will overcome tough times and witness a new dawn of progress and prosperity,” the prime minister said, adding that even the people of Madina took time in changing their mindset and accepting the reforms that had been introduced by Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
“Madina State had not been set up in one day. The change took place slowly. Even Allah banned liquor and slavery in phases,” he said.
Says change will take time, launches ‘Langar scheme’ under Ehsaas programme with public-private partnership
“The country will change and people will see it,” the prime minister declared, admitting that they had not yet reached the stage where they could say that change had come in the true sense.
“Ehsaas Langar is a real step towards the creation of a welfare state like Madina. This is our government’s top priority that nobody sleeps hungry in Pakistan. We will expand this scheme nationwide to ensure food security for low income class till our economy and industrialisation get boosted,” the prime minister said.
He said the government was making efforts to encourage businessmen and industrialists to generate wealth so that the money collected from their taxes could be spent on the welfare of the poor and destitute people and on the eradication of poverty.
He said the biggest flaw of the current system was that the rich were becoming even richer and poor were getting poorer. He regretted that rich people did not pay taxes and the poor were being overburdened with taxes.
Mr Khan termed Ehsaas the biggest poverty eradication programme and said the government would give a share to the SWIT from this programme. He said the government intended to open 112 soup kitchens in the first phase of the scheme, which would be expanded to every nook and corner of the country where there was hunger and unemployment. “This is difficult time and we will try that no one sleeps hungry.”
Mr Khan said they were taking steps to improve health facilities and bring reforms in police to save people from excesses being committed against them in police stations.
The prime minister praised Ehsaas Programme chairperson Dr Sania Nishtar for effectively carrying out the country’s largest socio-economic welfare project.
Earlier, Dr Nishtar in her remarks said the Langar project was in line with the vision of the prime minister who wanted that no person in the country slept with empty stomach and under the open skies. She said that under this scheme, the needy would be provided quality meals in a dignified manner.
SWIT founder Bashir Farooqi said the Ehsaas Langar near Peshawar Morr in Islamabad was set up in only 10 days and the trust was confident to achieve the target of 112 similar set-ups in the shortest period of time with a greater objective of establishing a total of 1,200 soup kitchens.
The prime minister was informed by the SWIT members that the trust had already been providing free meal to 70,000 people in the country.
The prime minister took lunch with the common people and heard their issues and assured them of a swift resolution of their troubles.
Currently, the Ehsaas Langar site in Islamabad provides food two times daily to around 600 people.
The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) criticised the prime minister for launching the scheme to set up soup kitchens in the country with the help of the SWIT.
In a statement, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb praised the SWIT for its charity work in the country and said the prime minister was now offering free meal to 600 people after shutting the kitchens of some two million people.
Ms Aurangzeb said the prime minister was dreaming about a welfare state after closing industries and businesses in just one year. She asked the government to make roti (bread) cheaper and bring down inflation instead of opening soup kitchens in the country. She alleged that the government had already stopped providing free medicines to people in government hospitals.
Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2019