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August 25, 2018

People hail Imran’s massive reforms agenda


August 25, 2018

ISLAMABAD: General public has applauded Prime Minister Imran Khan's announced reforms agenda in more than 30 areas.

The most praised reforms announced by Imran Khan were restoring the dignity of common man in government offices, introducing speedy justice, climate sector measures including tree plantation and construction of dams, tax collection improvement, and austerity in government offices.

Other areas where the prime minister announced reforms include, NAB, FIA, tourism, industry, low cast housing, youth and skill development. Imran announced that he will lead a simple life and only use two cars unlike over 33 being used by previous prime ministers and will only have two employees instead of more than 500 being used in past.

Imran Khan also announced to cut back expenses of governors' houses, chief ministers' offices and other public offices to save money. He promised to make Pakistan a welfare state like Madina Munawwara. He also talked about malnutrition and how it was affecting 45% of Pakistani children.

While Prime Minister Imran Khan’s reforms’ agenda announced in his maiden address to the nation on Sunday received massive public support, two critical measures he promised had. however, already been launched by the previous government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Outlining widespread reforms in almost all areas concerning common Pakistanis, the Prime Minister promised to introduce the whistleblowers act and and health insurance scheme across Pakistan on the pattern of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). However, Imran Khan missed the fact that National Assembly has already passed a comprehensive bill for the protection of whistleblowers and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had launched PM National Health Scheme way back in January 2015.

Also Imran mentioned Police reforms and madrassa education reforms in his speech but reforms in these two areas had already been introduced by the than Pakistan President Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf. However, implementation on those reforms failed to bring about any positive change in police service or madrassa education so far.

On August 17, 2017, the National Assembly passed the bill aimed at providing protection to whistleblowers in corruption cases. The bill, titled the Public Interest Disclosures Bill, 2017, was passed by the assembly with a majority vote. During his speech Imran Khan had said: “the government would also introduce whistleblowers act across the country as it had done in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to award the informers of any embezzlement of public money.”

However when contacted by The News Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said the law passed by the last national assembly was not much comprehensive so PTI will be working on a much better law to protect those who will point out corruption in government departments.

On the issue of Sehat Insaf Card, the government spokesperson said he aware of the fact that federal government of PML-N also launched the same scheme.

However, he said the scheme in the Centre was not properly implemented and only KP has properly implemented the health insurance scheme. When his attention was drawn to the fact that KP’s laws on whistleblower and conflict of interest have so far not been implemented too, he said, PTI government passed those law during its last year so there was not enough time to properly implement the same.

Interestingly, the law passed by PML-N government offers nine protections to whistleblowers in the government departments who will point out corruption and wrongdoings in their respective departments.

Under Section 10 of the Bill, the government shall ensure that “neither any adverse action shall be taken against a complainant no shall he be victimised by initiation of any proceedings or otherwise merely on the ground that he made a disclosure or rendered assistance in inquiry under this Act.” A person shall be considered victimised if he is dismissed, suspended, denied promotion, demoted made redundant, harassed, intimidated, threatened with any of these consequences and subject to any discrimination by the employer or fellow employees.

While introducing the bill the than Law Minister Zahid Hamid had said the bill was aimed at providing protection to the person who would point out any corruption or wrongdoing in any department or the office. “The bill had been introduced in line with the PML-N’s manifesto which talks about zero tolerance for corruption,” he had said. After passage of the bill, he said, no punitive action could be taken against the person who would point out corrupt practices. This law, he said, was in accordance with international conventions relating to corruption that had also recognised the importance of having a law in place for the protection of persons making public interest disclosures as an effective anti-corruption mechanism.

The Statement of Objects and Reasons attached to the bill states that “persons disclosing information relating to the economic crimes in the public interest (also called whistleblowers) are often subjected to retaliation in the form of discrimination, intimidation, abuse, unjust disciplinary action, including dismissal and even threats of physical harm to them and their families”.

Protection of persons making such public interest disclosures, by reporting in good faith acts of corruption and other wrongdoing and illegal activities, is integral to efforts to effectively combat corruption, promote public section integrity and accountability and support a clean working environment,” says the bill.

On health insurance, the Prime Minister had said: “All the countrymen would be given the facility of Sehat Insaf Card in the shape of free medical services of up to Rs500,000 at government and private health institutions like the one already introduced in the KP”.

However, the former prime minister launched a similarstate-run health insurance programme in Islamabad on December 31, 2015, with the objective to provide universal health coverage through a cashless health insurance scheme.

The scheme which was initially launched in Islamabad was later expanded to provinces of Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh. Health cards were also provided to people in Gilgit-Baltistan but the KP province refused to launch the federal scheme. Later, the KP launched its own scheme of Sehat Insaf Card.

Talking to The News, former Minister for National Health Service Saira Afzal tarar said the PML-N government had approved a PC-1 to expand the health insurance scheme to entire country. She said the scheme was stopped owing to case in Supreme Court regarding picture of Prime Minister on health cards. However she said the government allocated budget for the scheme even in the last budget after a PC-2 was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec). She said under the scheme the poor patients had been provided complete medical coverage at private and government medical institutions on government expenses.

“There is nothing new announced by the prime minister in health sector which PML-N had not introduced,” she said, adding that even on Stunted growth and malnutrition issue the former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi not only imposed an emergency but also allocated Rs1 billion in the federal budget of 2018-19.

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