Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday launched the Sehat Insaf Card for the tribal districts at a ceremony in Peshawar.
Speaking on the occasion, the premier said that having access to free healthcare is perhaps “the biggest blessing from God for a household of lesser means”.
“For such a family, when a member falls ill, it is a bombshell. As it is, the earning member feeds the others with a lot of difficulties. With someone getting sick, the whole budget gets upset, and they fall deeper into poverty,” he said.
The prime minister said that research conducted shows that the biggest shock for families struggling with finances is illness.
“That is why we wanted to provide the Sehat Insaf Card to low-income households after its demonstrated success in KP during our [last] tenure in the province,” he said.
Under the programme, Rs720,000 will be allotted for every household. “At least in their difficult times they can have the consolation that they have the health card,” the prime minister said, adding that a family can use the card at any hospital in any city and receive treatment worth that amount.
Explore: The poor state of Pakistan’s healthcare system
“We held a special meeting on the tribal areas. I met with the governor and chief minister [of KP] today. We chalked out a whole plan on how to help the people in the tribal areas,” Prime Minister Khan informed the audience.
He said that there had been a delay owing to the mounting debt the incumbent government had to tackle as soon as it came into power.
“Tomorrow the visit of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince will mark a momentous occasion which will bring never-before-seen investments in the country,” Khan remarked.
“We shall be bringing to the people a comprehensive programme for poverty alleviation which we will launch by the end of the month,” the prime minister announced, adding that the Sehat Insaf Card is merely one element of the programme.
He said the programme will be such that all those institutions which work towards the eradication of poverty such as zakaat institutions, the Baitul Maal, and Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) will fall under one umbrella and have a coordinated structure.
“When that programme is fully developed, we will introduce it first to the tribal areas,” he promised.
“I want to thank the health minister for bringing to fruition what I had promised the people of the tribal areas,” the premier said, turning towards National Health Services (NHS) Minister Aamer Mehmood Kiani.
Also read: Imran Khan envisions a Pakistani welfare state. Is it possible?
He said the government plans on further developing the infrastructure in the tribal region and shall be releasing funds for the purpose which will be used to construct hospitals and basic health units.
“My minister surveyed the tribal region and now we know where our efforts must be focused for development,” he said.
“The PTI was always cognisant of the troubles that the people have endured in the tribal districts. I kept on saying it was not a good idea to conduct military operations in the region,” the premier said in regret.
“In such operations, it is hard to form a distinction about who the enemy is and who isn’t, which is why I was against the idea since day one. I said we should seek alternatives to combat terrorism. However, the matter was out of our hands at that time.”
“Now that we have been given a chance, we will do our utmost to help the people of the tribal areas,” he concluded.