SOHBATPUR: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif interacts with students after inaugurating the new building of Government Boys Secondary School on Wednesday.—APP
SOHBATPUR: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif interacts with students after inaugurating the new building of Government Boys Secondary School on Wednesday.—APP

• Hopeful of support from friendly countries at Jan 9 conference
• Unveils 12 solar-powered schools for Balochistan
• Lauds madressahs’ role

SOHBATPUR: As thousands of flood-hit people continue to brave chilly nights under the open sky in several parts of the country, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has vowed to highlight their plight at a conference in the Swiss city of Geneva next week and unveiled the government’s plan to build 12 solar-powered schools in Balochistan.

“The floods that hit Pakistan [last] year … I have never seen this much damage in my life,” the premier told a gathering on Wednesday during a visit to Sohbatpur, a district in Balochistan’s Nasirabad division.

“The last time I came to Sohbatpur, the entire district was inundated and even transporting medicines and food here was a challenge,” he said, adding that helping the affected citizens was a test for the government, but it still managed to distribute Rs100 billion with the help of the National Disaster Management Authority.

Severe floods submerged large swathes of the country last year, killing nearly 1,700 people, and damaging farmlands and infrastructure.

Mr Sharif was speaking at the event after inaugurating a smart model school in town, which has been rebuilt in the last five months at a cost of Rs80 million.

He also announced Tamgha-i-Khidmat — a government award to acknowledge one’s services to nation-building, especially among the poor — for Nasirabad’s commissioner for rehabilitating flood-hit people and rebuilding schools in a short time.

The prime minister emphasised that a lot of work still needed to be done and flood victims needed blankets, warm clothes and other relief goods due to winter.

“There are thousands of people under the open sky in the mountains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the plains of Sindh,” he said. “They are waiting for help.”

He said that at the Geneva conference, he would discuss the remaining challenges faced by Pakistan along with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan will be held in Geneva on Jan 9. The event will be co-hosted by the government of Pakistan and the United Nations.

It aims to bring together government representatives, leaders from the public and private sectors and civil society to support the people and the government after the devastating floods of 2022.

The premier said he had contacted leaders of all friendly countries and invited them to attend the conference. He hoped that “civilised societies will play their part here. Our resolve is absolute, and we won’t rest even for a minute”.

The Sohbatpur ceremony was attended by Balochistan Governor Mir Jan Muhammad Khan Jamali, federal ministers Maulana Abdul Wasey and Marriyum Aurangzeb, MNA Nawabzada Khalid Magsi, Senator Sana Jamali, provincial minister Noor Muhammad Dummar, Nasirabad Commissioner Bashir Ahmed and several tribal elders. Chief Minister Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo was not present.

12 schools across Balochistan

The premier said the provincial and federal governments had decided to build 12 schools across Balochistan to provide children with free education.

“These schools will be on a par with the Danish schools in Punjab,” he said, referring to a flagship project of the PML-N government. “Students in these schools will be given mainstream education which is provided at any private school in the country.”

He elaborated that the schools would feature accommodations for students, state-of-the-art technology, e-libraries, skilled teachers and medical clinics.

The schools would be run on solar energy, he said, adding that the first such school would be inaugurated in Sohbatpur on March 23.

PM extends support to madressahs

Meanwhile, in a meeting with a delegation of Ittehad-i-Tanzeemat-i-Madaris, Prime Minister Sharif vowed to bestow complete administrative autonomy to hundreds of seminaries in the country and lauded their role “to protect Pakistan’s interests”.

“The government will extend its maximum support to the seminaries to help them impart education in accordance with modern-day needs,” he said.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Sharif assured the seminaries of maximum administrative autonomy and ease of registration process.

Acknowledging the services of the seminaries for religious education, he said that around five million students were studying there free of charge.

The premier also expressed condolence over the death of renowned religious scholar Mufti Rafi Usmani and said that not only Pakistan, but the whole Muslim world recognised his services to the religion.

The meeting was attended by JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Mufti Taqi Usmani, among others.

Syed Irfan Raza in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2023

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