Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said that Pakistan never saw the scale of progress it should have seen because the underprivileged "were left behind" to serve an elitist agenda.
"Neither did we provide them quality education, nor build good hospitals for them. We didn't care for their health or ensure the provision of food.
"No country that has only served its elite ever progressed," said the premier, while addressing the launch ceremony of the Ehsaas Kafaalat Programme for poor women, in Islamabad.
According to Radio Pakistan, under the programme, a stipend of Rs2,000 per month will be paid "to the most deserving and poorest women across the country through a digital payment system based on transparent mechanism".
The premier, while addressing the event, promised that the state will take responsibility of the underprivileged.
"Seven million women will receive the Kafaalat card which means seven million households will benefit," said the premier, adding that health cards had already been distributed to six million families, enabling each to seek treatment worth Rs720,000.
"So far, I believe, our government's greatest achievement is this," said the prime minister.
"The helplessness that people feel when they don't have the funds for their treatment, is the greatest cruelty in society," he continued.
"When illness befalls a member of an underprivileged family, the entire household is thrust below the line of poverty as their entire budget is spent trying to seek treatment," noted the premier.
During the event, the prime minister distributed cards to several women and expressed satisfaction with the way the programme's system had been developed so truly deserving women could benefit.
"Humanity demands that you help those less privileged than you," said the premier, adding: "However, when there is dishonesty in the use of the funds collected, then such programmes are never successful," said the premier.
"So for its success, it was important for such systems to develop which ensure that the money reaches those people who are truly deserving, who are barely able to feed their children," said the premier. He explained that the programme had experienced delays because of the focus on developing a transparent mechanism for the flow of funds.
The prime minister said that it was under this mechanism, 800,000 people had been weeded out which included government officers who had cars and were availing foreign tours.
"These women, to whom I just distributed the cards, are among the people whose money was being stolen," he said.
Government's plans ahead
The premier then proceeded with giving out details of how the programme works and provided an outline of other schemes the government will soon be implementing.
Under the Kafaalat Programme, he said that women will all be facilitated with bank accounts "so the money isn't stolen". He said that the card can be used to buy groceries from utility stores as well.
The premier said that smartphones will also be distributed so the women have access to information.
He said that the next phase will see the distribution of cows and buffaloes, so women can not only provide their children nutritious milk but sell it for additional income.
"The biggest challenge to children's health in Pakistan right now is stunting and malnutrition. These two problems affect the development of children.
"So we will empower women, give them chicken and eggs and help them become self-sufficient."
The premier also spoke of scholarship programmes for children from lesser income households.
"All of this is so Pakistan can be made into the state it was meant to be. A welfare state. A state that takes responsibility for the ones left behind.
"When someone asks me what that one reason is due to which Pakistan — which was seeing such rapid progress at one point — was unable to reach the pinnacle of success, I say it is because no country can witness development if there is a small fraction that is well-off among a sea of poor people."
He said that progress can only be possible with the uplift of the poor sections of society, as he put forward the example of the state of Madina.
Speaking of the 'Hunarmand Naujawan' programme, he said 500,000 youth will be imparted skills training "so they are well-equipped to make a living themselves".
He gave the example of Namal University, where numerous children from underprivileged families come to acquire education and after their graduation, are instantly able to procure jobs.
He also spoke of a loan facility to youth for their start-ups. "The youth will give out their business plans and the banks will evaluate their ideas on merit and provide them loans."
At the end, the premier thanked Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Sania Nishtar for making a "foolproof programme".
He said with the data being collected under her guidance, the foundation for a welfare state was being laid.
"This will be the Pakistan Quaid-e-Mohammad Ali JInnah and Allama Iqbal had envisioned."