Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday that the introduction of health insurance cards and Punjab Kissan (farmer) Card scheme was a “turning point” in Pakistan’s history that would be written about in the future.
Addressing a farmers’ convention in Bahawalpur to launch the Punjab Kissan Card scheme, the premier praised Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and said: “The health card and Kissan card are the biggest things you have accomplished and this will be the turning point in our history when it is written. That this [was the time when] this country changed its direction for the purpose for which it was made.”
Such a reorientation in purpose, the prime minister claimed, would be the path to the “country’s greatness”.
The premier said that every Khyber Pakhtunkhwa household now held the health card and every household of Punjab would as well by the end of the year. He reiterated that the kind of universal healthcare insurance in KP was present in very few countries.
Similarly, he termed the Kissan cards a “revolution”. The premier explained that till now, it was difficult to directly provide money to farmers with many obstacles in between.
“Now we have used technology and for the first time, a card will be made on which the farmer can avail any subsidy that we give them,” he said, adding that farmers would be able to directly access funds through the card.
The premier said he was very “happy” that the Punjab government had taken the initiative and soon the KP government would follow in its footsteps.
“Wherever there is a PTI government — in Azad [Jammu and] Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan — or a coalition government as in Balochistan, we will talk with them to provide these cards to farmers so we can directly subsidise them.”
The prime minister said that he was “doing no favour” to farmers through such measures, rather, it was his “obligation” to help them in order to help the country, reduce poverty and bring prosperity.
“You will see that my federal and provincial governments will always stand with you,” he told the farmers.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said the country would stand up when it helped its 8.3 million farmers, referring to them as Pakistan’s real strength.
He said he was proud of the PTI government during whose tenure, farmers earned an additional Rs1,100 billion due to getting the set prices for crops in a timely manner.
“Our vision ahead is to double farmers’ income from what they are [currently] earning because it will benefit Pakistan. When a farmer earns, he will invest in the land and productivity will increase and the country will benefit, poverty will reduce and prices of food and drink items will decrease.”
He attributed the country’s high inflation to the failure of productivity to keep pace with the population increase. Despite record wheat production, Pakistan was importing 4m tonnes, he said.
Similarly, the doubling in the price of edible oil increased the government’s burden and it had to raise prices as well.
“So the whole purpose of telling you this is that we have to help farmers [so] they get money and help them through technology.”
The premier also stressed the importance of research to increase agricultural productivity and using innovative modern methods, saying that other countries had managed to populate deserts through new techniques. He appreciated Islamia University Bahawalpur for promoting agricultural research.
Prime Minister Imran Khan emphasised that it was paramount to lift people up from poverty to take the country forward,
“No country can move forward or progress if there are a few rich people and a sea of the poor.
“It develops when it lifts up its weak segment and a humane society is that where there is humanity — whose requirement is to lift people up who have been left behind in life’s race,” he said.
He added that as farmers were helped, the country would start getting prosperous by itself. He pointed to the number of motorcycles sold in the year — the highest in the country’s history — crediting the sales figure to more money flowing into rural areas.