Imran Khan. File
Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed on Saturday that his government will “make the impossible possible” by building houses for the less privileged.
Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony of the “Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme” in Renala Khurd in Okara district of Punjab, he said that it was the state’s job to ensure that every citizen has access to shelter, food and other basic facilities. He announced that the housing scheme will be launched country-wide and added that the critics of the project will see that it will gain pace every year.
“This is a difficult task, otherwise the past two governments would have taken [this project] up,” he said. “Our government will take up every difficult task. Initiating the project took time because of legislative and legal hurdles. We had to introduce laws so that it would be possible for banks to give loans to people for this purpose.”
Imran said that the government will take banks on board and introduce mortgage laws so that a salaried person will also be able to buy a house. He said that the building of the houses will be outsourced to the private sector and the government will merely assist in the process. “We want every citizen to have a roof over their heads.”
The prime minister said that the government seeks to build high-rise apartment blocks in the place of shanty towns in urban cities. He said that the centre has asked Chinese builders to assist the government in the project using the latest technology so that work can be completed quickly.
He said that the ‘state of Madina’ became strong because it cared for its poor, even though it initially lacked resources. The west, he said, had attained success because it followed the model of the Madina state.
The housing scheme is an ambitious project that was announced by the prime minister in a launch ceremony held in October 2018. The government is looking to build five million affordable houses in five years for low-income segments of society under the plan.
Imran said the provision of basic necessities to the masses is the state’s responsibility. “We will make five millions homes for the segment of the population who cannot buy homes,” he said adding that the government wants to bring in a mortgage system like in the west.
“The private sector will build these homes and the government will just facilitate them. This will provide opportunities to youth to set up small industries and will increase the growth rate too.”
He lamented at the appalling conditions in slums, saying the government will come up with projects for those areas and to provide them with clean water.
Earlier, Imran says the recent cabinet reshuffle was akin to a change in “batting order,” and Asad Umar, who was recently removed as the finance minister, would re-join his team soon.
During a chat with media men, he rejected as rumours about the presidential system and criticised the opposition for taking cover of democracy to “hide their corruption.”
About the induction of non-elected members in his cabinet, Imran insisted that his government would make use of all suitable individuals for the good of the country. “In the absence of experts, we are assigning technocrats,” he said, adding that he has to show the performance of his government.
He said Umar would be back in the cabinet. “Umar is intelligent and he is precious asset. He will return to the cabinet soon.”
The prime minister criticised the opposition parties, saying that they were trying to get away with their corruption by using democracy as an excuse. He reiterated his resolve that he would not sign another national reconciliation ordinance (NRO) [deal] - a reference to Pervez Musharraf-era amnesty.
“The opposition wants NRO from the government,” he said but added firmly that he would not sign any NRO even if he loses his seat. “The people taking decisions about the NROs are those who wanted to save their power. I will not give any NRO. In 2016, [the then interior minister] Chaudhry Nisar stated that Bilawal and Ayyan Ali’s bills were being paid from the same fake account. Were these cases initiated by me,” asked Khan, while referring to the on-going accountability process.
He said that the opposition calls their people to accountability courts to put pressure. “Why have they been unable to explain where the money for London flats came from? The opposition would fall silent when the cases were closed.”
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