Gilgit – Staff Reporter:
We will change the lives of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed.
Speaking at the oath-taking ceremony of the Gilgit-Baltistan cabinet on Wednesday, he said the government has already shortlisted things it wants to do for residents of the region and a special committee has been formed.
“When I used to come here before, people asked me if they were not Pakistani and if they didn’t have rights as citizens,” the premier said. “That was when I decided that we needed to work for these people and make them feel included.”
He pointed out that the more successful way of rule in the world is self-governance. Someone sitting in Islamabad cannot decide what is best for you, it is you who knows best, PM Khan said.
He revealed a number of projects that the government will bring to the region.
Ehsaas Programme and health cards
The PTI government has always kept the government of Madinah as its inspiration and Madinah’s best system was its support for the poor, the prime minister said.
We plan to do the same for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, he said. Pakistan’s first and biggest poverty alleviation project, the Ehsaas Programme, will be brought to the region.
“Health cards, similar to the one distributed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, will be given to each household in the province,” the PM said, adding that with these cards residents will be able to go any hospital in the region and get medical treatment under Rs1 million.
He added that a 250-bed hospital was already under construction in Skardu.
Gilgit-Baltistan is also called the hub of tourism in Pakistan. Every summer, hundreds of tourists from across the world visit the region.
Prime Minister Khan has vowed to not just continue but also enhance this. “The region is so famous for its beauty and nature that it doesn’t even need to be marketed.
“This year, not as many tourists visited the province because of the coronavirus situation,” he lamented. “But we will ensure that next year, all the losses are covered for.”
Low-cost loans will be given to residents so that they can construct hotels and guest houses and earn money.
PM Khan remarked that in countries such as Austria and Switzerland, skiing was a sport that made huge amounts of money. He has promised to bring skiing to Gilgit-Baltistan as well.
“Last week, I has a meeting with an Austrian company that asked me if they could start a skiing setup in the region,” he said. “Pakistan has a huge potential for skiing and once it comes here, it will bring along a lot of business and profit for us.”
To solve the power woes of the people in the region, six hydro-electric plants have been planned by the government.
“Two of these units are under-construction, two are in the pipeline and the approval for two more stations has been given,” the premier said.
For small towns and villages, micro-hydel stations will be constructed.
The prime minister added that special economic zones will be developed in the region as well. “These will come in the route of the Chine-Pakistan Economic Corridor and will bring a lot of development here.”
Ishaq Dar lied in BBC interview
Prime Minister Imran Khan says former finance minister Ishaq Dar lied while everyone watched his interview on BBC News’ show ‘HARDtalk’.
If you want to see stress, you should have seen Ishaq Dar’s face yesterday, the premier mockingly added.
The premier was speaking at an official visit to Gilgit Baltistan on the occasion of the oath-taking of the new cabinet. He spoke in detail about his plans for the development of the region and ended his speech with comments against the Opposition and the PML-N leader.
Dar, who is also a close aide of ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, had revealed during the BBC interview that he owns only one property in Pakistan and that too, has been seized by the government.
Soon after his interview PTI lawmakers took to social media to bash the former finance minister.
Responding to the PML-N leader’s claims of financial transparency, Federal Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar stated that “Dar has been exposed for the umpteenth time”.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari shared a video clip from the interview, where the host of the programme can be seen cross-questioning Dar about his properties and assets. Taking a dig at the former finance minister, she wrote in the caption: “Oops – when you get caught out!”.
‘People dying from coronavirus and opposition holding rallies’
PM Khan took a jibe at opposition leaders too, including PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari.
He called them the corrupt mafia and said they do not care about the country. The mafia is just hatching conspiracies to save their looted wealth, the PM said.
He said he has known Nawaz and Zardari since 30 years. “We have seen god’s wrath bestowed on them,” he said, adding that Nawaz and Zardari lie to go to London and Dubai.
“People are dying from the coronavirus and the opposition is holding public rallies,” the premier said.
‘Provisional provincial status for Gilgit Baltistan top priority’
PM Khan reiterated that the PTI government would on priority basis to grant the provisional provincial status to Gilgit Baltistan as earlier promised.
PM Imran said the government will first work on providing GB the status of a province.
The premier also congratulated the cabinet and Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid on assuming a “difficult duty to serve the masses”.
He said Gilgit Baltistan will soon get a government which will establish new standards in the region.
“I know your area. I know your problems,” Imran Khan said in his speech.
“You people know better than us what projects are needed [in Gilgit],” he said, adding that PTI is working to bring the Ehsaas Programme as well.
He made promises of universal health insurance, saying people would be able to use it by getting treatment at any hospital up to a limit of Rs1 million.
This is the PM’s second visit to the region in a month. During his last visit on November 1, just before the election, he announced to grant provisional provincial status to Gilgit Baltistan.