Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday promised universal health coverage for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
"A poor household has to face many difficulties when battling sickness. They sell their possessions, take out loans for medical treatment. So we are introducing health insurance for all of GB," he said.
He added that Rs1 million will be allocated under the health cards for availing medical treatment at any hospital. He said that the government will also introduce the Ehsaas poverty alleviation programme in GB.
The premier made the announcement after he arrived in the region to attend the oath taking ceremony of the 14-member GB cabinet. The GB governor, Raja Jalal Hussain Maqpoon, administered the oath to the members of the cabinet.
Addressing the ceremony, the premier began his speech by congratulating the new cabinet. He expressed the hope that the new GB government would set a "new tradition" and give a governance system that "sets new standards".
"No prime minister in Pakistan has seen this region the way I have," he said, adding that he was acutely aware of the issues being faced by the people of GB as well as the region's potential.
"What will the new government do? First, we will work on granting the region provisional provincial status so that the prevailing sense of deprivation [among the people] can be eradicated."
He stated that a committee will be formed to deliberate on this which will work according to timelines.
The premier also touched on the importance of "self-governance". "You people know better the kind of development you require. We can't tell you [while sitting in] Islamabad which project is needed. You can make this decision."
PM Imran added that the government will also focus on promoting tourism in the region. "From what I have seen during the past three to four years, there has been an influx of tourists during summer. Sometimes they don't have places to stay."
He stated that the government would facilitate the people in order to promote tourism by providing cheap loans so that the locals are able to build hotels and guest houses.
"In addition, we met an Austrian company that specialises in skiing. A majority of the money earned from tourism in Switzerland is because of skiing. The same is with Austria."
According to this company, the time period for skiing has started to reduce in their country due to climate change, he said. "They say that regions within Pakistan are at a higher altitude which allows for skiing to take place for seven to eight months. So we have begun talking to them about developing skiing areas here."
What this will achieve, the premier said, is that tourists — especially international tourists — will flock to the region all year round instead of just during the summer. "This will also benefit Pakistan as it will bring foreign exchange."
He added that the government will continue working on the upgradation of Skardu Hospital so that residents don't have to travel to the federal capital for medical treatment.
'Opposition under stress to save looted money'
Commenting on the opposition, the prime minister said that the opposition was lying to save their ill-gotten gains. However, lies cannot remain concealed for long, he said. "To hide one lie you have to say a hundred others."
A person who makes money for his children, those same children have to also lie at the end to save that wealth, he said. "What is the benefit of such wealth that brings destruction upon you and your family?"
He said that he has known PPP's Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N's Nawaz Sharif for several years and has seen them become a victim of God's wrath. "Sometimes they go to jail, sometimes they go abroad after lying: All in an effort to save stolen money."
The entire Pakistan Democratic Movement is running their current campaign while people are dying of the coronavirus, he said. "It is known that the virus spreads when people gather. Everyone knows this. All medical workers say that pressure is increasing on hospitals and they are organising rallies."
They are only doing this to save their stolen wealth, he said.
"Ask any doctor, they will say that stress is the root of most health problems. It causes the most harm.
"And if you need to see stress, there was an Ishaq Dar interview [...] just look at his face [during the interview] and you will know what stress is," the premier said, referring to the former finance minister's recent interview with BBC.
"Even if he didn't have heart problems, he would have developed them," he said, adding that Dar spoke one lie after the other as the "whole world watched".
Speaking to the new cabinet, the premier said that they had a huge responsibility and urged them to work for the people's welfare.