• PM launches health card for Rawalpindi, Islamabad
• Says national security linked with people’s welfare
ISLAMABAD: Launching the ambitious Rs450 billion Naya Pakistan Qaumi Sehat Card here on Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan again came to the defence of Usman Buzdar, saying the “worst ever campaigns” were initiated against the Punjab chief minister.
“No worse campaigns were launched against any chief minister than those against Usman Buzdar, but even then a survey declared him the top chief minister of the country,” the prime minister said while addressing a ceremony to distribute health cards among residents of the twin cities with an annual medical cover of up to Rs1 million for each family.
Under the scheme, all households of Islamabad, Punjab, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Tharparkar will be provided free medical treatment at government and private hospitals.
Saying he acknowledged the performance of Mr Buzdar, especially in ensuring provision of universal health coverage to the people of Punjab, the PM remarked: “In fact, Usman belongs to one of the most backward areas of the country and thus realises the suffering and problems confronting people.”
The prime minister, however, did not miss the opportunity to lash out at his political opponents, saying the previous rulers first wanted the country to prosper and then make it a welfare state. “But, I think otherwise. The step that we have taken will prove to be a defining moment. It’s a great step and will pave the way for national security as well,” he claimed.
Referring to Shehbaz Sharif without naming him, Mr Khan said a former chief minister of Punjab, who used to wear long boots and a hat and roam on the streets, flew abroad for his and his family’s medical treatment. “They [Sharifs] do not know about the sufferings of the people.”
The PM distributed health cards among the beneficiaries and called the facility an ambitious programme to facilitate the entire populace. Universal health coverage, he said, was available in just a few countries where the government fully covered medical expenses.
“I have been inspired by the health insurance programme in the UK under which people get free medical treatment in any government hospital. But we have gone a step ahead and offered free treatment at public as well as private sector hospitals,” he added.
In Pakistan, he said, the launch of such a facility was a “landmark step” to give relief to the poor who cannot afford the burden of expensive medical facilities. He said the philosophy behind the provision of health cards was in line with the achievement of the goal of a welfare state. In fact, national security is linked with the welfare of people who are the biggest stakeholders in a state, he added.
Prime Minister Khan said the health card was a defining moment in encouraging the private sector to join the medical network, especially in rural areas, and create an environment of competition for the government hospitals to improve their services.
He said Rs450bn would be spent on the health insurance programme, adding that no previous ruler had done anything in the sector even close to what his government has for health coverage.
He went on to say that the government planned to establish five mother-and-child hospitals to counter the high mortality rate owing to neonatal and pregnancy complications.
The prime minister said the Rehmatul Lil Aalamin Authority would highlight the life of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him), who emphasised empathy for the poor and deserving.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Buzdar said 56 hospitals had been empanelled in the 36 districts of Punjab to provide medical insurance. The entire population of Punjab would receive medical insurance by March 31, he announced.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2022