PM advocates equal rights for minorities

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Friday reaffirmed the equal rights for minority communities and called for enforcing meritocracy and social opportunities for their uplift and mainstreaming.

The prime minister, in an interactive session with the students of Aga Khan University, said the minorities were equal Pakistanis as Madina State had also guaranteed equal responsibilities and rights for the citizens. Calling for infusing a sense of confidence in the people, he said that meritocracy should be enforced, and social opportunities for minorities should be created.

To a question, he said that the people of Pakistan enjoyed freedom of expression and considering the country’s political history, any particular incident could not be associated with the government of that particular term. He said that the incidents involving the violations of freedom of speech were not limited to a particular government.

The prime minister, responding to a query by a university student about the arrest of journalists, said that during the tenure, he was referring to, the journalists were shot at and faced many such acts which were against the freedom of expression. “You have a freedom of expression and speech. You spoke your heart before the prime minister. After this, your allegation of no freedom of speech would carry lesser weight,” he remarked.

About the rights and status of Gilgit Baltistan, he said GB was and would remain part of Pakistan. He said the matter of rights should be tackled peacefully without any resentment. “The political procedure should move forward. The GB should be our Singapore. Our identities are associated with each other,” he remarked.

To a question, the prime minister said after the 18th amendment, health was a devolved subject with the provinces having all the funding to spend on the sector. The visionary leadership is essential to address the challenges, especially the management of funds, he added. About the lack of education research, the prime minister said allocating billions of rupees for the parliamentarians amidst the higher education and research crisis was unjustified.

He said some individuals might have this realization, but it should be at the policymaker’s level. He urged the students to keep raising their voices for the promotion of education to jolt the people at the helm of affairs. To another query, he said he was not worried about the educated people moving abroad as they were not divorced from the society rather they would continue to contribute to the country;’s development through their remirttances.

“If a nurse or doctor is joining the global supply chain and contributing to the GDP, this is not a curse. This is quite natural. The gaps should be filled. Of our huge population, if some useful individuals go abroad, they are not divorced from our society,” he commented. Earlier, in his opening remarks, he said that the educational institutions had always been very close to his heart. He also gave a historical account of the education and research from the Greek period to the modern era experiencing unprecedented modern tools.

Meanwhile, the Caretaker Prime Minister said that the investors had regained confidence after the successful signing of a standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the execution of the annual budget 2023-24 and improvement in the fiscal and external accounts.

The prime minister, addressing the ceremony marking the first auction of the Government Ijarah Sukook bonds issued by the Pakistan Stock Exchange, said it was the collective responsibility of the stock brokers, SECP, and other participants to promote upcoming primary market auctions to market it a remarkable achievement for the entire market ecosystem.

He congratulated all the stakeholders on the auction of the Government Ijarah Sukook through PSX, instead of the State Bank of Pakistan, which was aimed at simplifying the participation in government securities auction, diversifying the investors’ base, and enhancing transparency.

He lauded the market participant for their interest in the auction through PSX particularly the participation of the retail market. He told the gathering that the stock exchange was a dynamic force and a heartbeat that resonated with the aspirations of business and progress.

The prime minister, who later rang the gong of the stock exchange said it did not only herald the market transactions but also a symphony of progress and prosperity. “The gong’s echoes reverberate not only within these walls but across the financial corridors of the nation, symbolizing our commitment to fostering an inclusive and robust financial ecosystem that welcomes diverse voices and promotes economic prosperity shared by all,” he remarked.

He said initially, Pakistan’s economy faced multiple challenges at the start of 2023-2024, but the government addressed structural and macroeconomic issues to rectify the situation. He said the collective efforts of all stakeholders had successfully brought the economy back on track, leading to a lower dollar rate from 307 on September 5 in the interbank to 284 today which also resulted in a decline in inflation.

Prime Minister Kakar said the bullish sentiment in the stock exchange was made possible by an improved economy, the participation of foreign investors, a high yield, and a stable exchange rate. He said the capital market provided fuel for businesses to expand, create jobs, and contribute to the overall development of society. He reiterated the government’s commitment to fostering an environment that nurtured the resilience of the capital market, recognizing its critical role as a stabilizing force that absorbed shocks and steered the economy toward stability.

The prime minister called for efforts to build a capital market that not only mirrored economic strength but also embodied values of fairness and integrity. In her address, Caretaker Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar welcomed the prime minister to launch Government Sukook Auction through PSX. She said the Ijarah Sukook was a monumental and innovative product being launched for the first time beyond the State bank which had total control over government securities.

Govt eager to take advantage of technology for enhanced access to healthcare: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said that the government was eager to take advantage of modern technologies for enhanced access to preventive and curative healthcare for the people, particularly the most vulnerable ones.

The prime minister, addressing the HealthTech Summit held by the Aga Khan University, said the advent of modern technology in the health sector was an exciting time for patients, healthcare providers as well as the government. He said the government needed support from the experts and professionals using modern technologies in the health sector as the provision of universal health coverage was the constitutional responsibility of the government. “Through technology, our dream of providing quality health services will be fulfilled,” he added.

The prime minister also highlighted the role of the private sector and philanthropists in fulfilling the dream of universal health coverage. He said the potential of technology to reshape healthcare was immense as gene therapy was no more a fiction but a reality.

Digital technology and artificial intelligence were powerful tools for healthcare providers to ensure the diagnosis far quicker than ever, he added. Calling the AKU a national asset for Pakistan, the prime minister lauded the institution’s global ranking as well as its services during COVID-19 in the form of training thousands of professionals and setting up health clinics in the flood-hit areas.

He said the AKU graduates were positively impacting society as ethical leaders and innovators and urged other institutions to emulate the best practices of the institution. He said the services of the AKU in Pakistan and across the borders, were testimony to the vision and generosity of Prince Aga Kahn who believed that the people of Pakistan deserved the best of education and health facilities.

Prime Minister Kakar said the technology had implications for the entire way of life including ethics, religion and democracy. He also highlighted the challenges posed by modern technology tools which necessitated the role of regulations and the government. However, he said instead of containing the change, one should engage with it to use it productively.

President AKU Sulaiman Shahabuddin, in his address, apprised the gathering about the summit and its significance. He also thanked the prime minister for attending the summit which he said manifested the government’s commitment to the health sector. Lt. General (retd) Dr Nigar Johar called for collaborated efforts to leverage modern technology as digitalization had brought improvements in multiple fields. She said the coordinated approach for public-private partnership at national, regional, and international levels for the achievement of universal health coverage, was inevitable.

PM felicitates SAARC member states on 39th Charter Day: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar extended heartfelt felicitations to the South Asian Association for Regional Countries (SAARC) member states and the people on the 39th SAARC Charter Day, emphasizing the importance of unity and cooperation among the member states to realize the true potential of the region.

In his message, the prime minister said “December 08, 1985 marks the day when leaders with vision and foresight adopted the SAARC Charter, and pledged to work together for the progress and prosperity of South Asia”. “This day reminds us of the responsibility placed on our shoulders by our peoples, to address the common challenges of poverty, illiteracy, disease and under-development,” he said.

The prime minister pointed out that undoubtedly, SAARC had the immense potential to provide a sound framework to transform the lives of over two billion people residing in the South Asian region. Pakistan, as one of the founding member states of SAARC, has consistently shown its commitment to the Organization’s objectives. It has actively participated in the SAARC processes and activities.

He said Pakistan was a firm believer in the strength and potential of regional cooperation for national and regional development. “It further believes that result-oriented regional cooperation can be achieved only by adhering to the cardinal principles of sovereign equality and mutual respect, as enshrined in the SAARC Charter.” He reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the SAARC process. “I am confident that the current hindrances to the Organization’s smooth functioning will be removed, thus enabling SAARC member states to forge ahead on the path of mutually-beneficial regional cooperation,” he added.