• Says half of Punjab to get medical insurance by year-end
• Rebukes opposition for ‘staging circus’ to avoid accountability
• Lays foundation stone of varsity, hospital in Hafizabad

GUJRAT: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Saturday that Pakistan’s journey towards becoming a welfare state had started with the PTI government’s pro-poor initiatives such as health insurance cards, shelter homes and housing loans.

The premier announced that the Punjab government had decided to extend the health insurance facility to half of the province’s population by the end of 2020 and the whole of province by the next year.

He was addressing a public meeting at Municipal Stadium, Hafizabad, after laying the foundation stone of the University of Hafizabad and a 400-bed District Headquarters Hospital. He resolved that the government would improve all the areas which were earlier being neglected. He held out the assurance that the projects launched by him in Hafizabad would be completed expeditiously since the people of the town needed them to be completed well in time.

Referring to the anti-government movement by the opposition alliance of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), Mr Khan said that the opposition was staging a circus to avoid the action being taken by the National Accounta­bility Bureau (NAB) against its leaders as the accountability watchdog was now free to proceed against the corrupt unlike the previous regimes whose functionaries would often protect each other for being involved in corrupt practices during their turn in power.

However, he said, his government had not initiated any corruption case against them as NAB had launched the proceedings against the corrupt in the previous cases that were made by the previous rulers against each other.

Mr Khan said when he did not agree to the demands of the opposition, they started attacking the judiciary and the army and ISI chiefs but attacking the chiefs of the army and the ISI was in fact an attack on the army. He said Nawaz Sharif was speaking the language of India by attacking the military leadership however, he (premier) would bring to justice those who had plundered the wealth of the people of Pakistan.

He said that the person sitting in London had planned a conspiracy against the army because it was not a democratic institution where army and ISI chiefs could be replaced by passing no-confidence motions and what Nawaz Shairf had said was actually tantamount to instigating a coup within the armed forces so that the army was destroyed.

Responding to the PDM’s allegations of rigging in 2018 polls, he questioned why they did not challenge the election in courts as his government was ready to investigate. He said the government was working to bring reforms in the electoral system.

Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, PTI MNA Shaukat Bhatti and other party leaders received the PM upon his arrival in Hafizabad after which he unveiled plaques of various development projects.

The Sehat Insaf Card facility, Mr Khan said, would give confidence to the low-income groups for having an insurance cover of Rs1 million for medical treatment of a family at public and private hospitals.

“This is happening for the first time in Pakistan’s 73- year history. Even the developed countries do not have such a facility as being provided to the people of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” the prime minister said. He said the initiative would also lead to the development of private hospitals’ network across the two provinces because the people with the insurance facility would confidently visit the private hospitals for medical treatment.

He said besides building shelter homes for the downtrodden, the government had also launched the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme through easy bank loans. The loan would be available at only 5pc mark-up rate, he added.

Many people had been talking of ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makan’ (food, clothing and shelter), but now for the first time, they (poor) would get home, he remarked. He said his government was working to introduce uniform syllabus for the whole country to get rid of class divide. He said rule of law would prevail in the country and the discrimination in implementation of the law would end according to the teachings of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and the model state of Madina in the Islamic history.

According to our Sahiwal correspondent, the prime minister visited Baba Fariduddin Masood Ganjshakar’s shrine in Pakpattan on Saturday noon. He laid a wreath at the shrine and prayed for the solidarity of the country.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2020