Today, we are celebrating 135th birthday of the Father of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Truly, it was the vision of our great Quaid that had laid the basis for the concept of an Islamic social welfare State, which is a need of hour today.

Jinnah, as a visionary and dynamic leader, great political thinker and strategist, and believer in democratic values, was one of the great nation builders. He followed a highly disciplined life, had an immaculate character, was bestowed with the ability to forecast the results, and had the analytical mind to approach any problem in an objective and solution-oriented manner.

The visionary leadership of the great Quaid envisioned an independent country where socio-economic justice and equality was to be the hallmarks of the State. His political acumen could be ascertained by the fact that he not only created a nation out of an amorphous and subjugated minority, but also succeeded in establishing a nation-State for them.

It is also imperative to note that Quaid-i-Azam never resorted to undemocratic or unconstitutional means; rather he was a democrat to his very core. At a public meeting in Dhaka, on March 21, 1948, he made it clear that the government’s aim and objective should be to serve the people and devise ways and means for their welfare and betterment. He said: “It is in the hands of people to put the government in power or remove it from power.”

The great visionary leader gave special importance to the welfare of the people. In his historic policy speech, on August 11, 1947, the Quaid said: “There is no other solution. Now what shall we do? Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the wellbeing of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor.” Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah dreamt about Pakistan with equal opportunities and equity in the distribution of resources for all, esspecially the masses, to live a meaningful life.

This vision of Quaid-i-Azam is still very much relevant and, in fact, there is a dire need to implement his vision in its true spirit. It is worth mentioning that the first democratically-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and his daughter, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, sacrificed their lives for the realisation and practical manifestation of the same vision and aspirations of the Quaid, transformed into Pakistan Peoples Party’s manifesto of “roti, kapra aur makaan - elm, roshni, sab ko kam.” Shaheed Benazir Bhutto took this mission forward with full zeal and sacrificed her life for making Pakistan a welfare State, as dreamt by Quaid-i-­Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

However, this pursuit did not end; rather it has gained unprecedented momentum under the unwavering resolve and relentless support of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. The democratic government believes that the concept of social justice, equal opportunities and well being of the people is the only way forward to become a prosperous democratic nation, as it was envisioned by the Father of the Nation.

Today, the people of Pakistan are confronting various economic challenges and hardships, which have basically resulted by the deviation from the path that the Quaid­-i-Azam had suggested for the growth and prosperity of this nation. Due to this deviation, our national economy stands crippled, as a result of the recent global economic crisis.

Though the prevailing economic and geopolitical atmosphere is not so conducive to launch any concrete socioeconomic reforms in the country, the democratic Government of Pakistan, while deriving from the spirit of Quaid-i-Azam’s vision, has shown tremendous resolve to confront the challenges of rising inflation, mounting unemployment, and diminishing opportunities for major sections of society living below the poverty line.

The great Quaid also attributed women empowerment as the essence of development and progress of any society. Here, I would quote the golden words of Quaid-i-Azam with regard to the status of women in society. He said: “I have always maintained that no nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men.” The Quaid added: “No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men. There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women.”

The guiding principles of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah about the socio-economic uplift of the downtrodden, women empowerment, and an enlightened population, had prompted the present democratic regime for an urgent and direct relief for the vulnerable and marginalised segments of the society to give them hope and means to live.

So, from the platform of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), we are striving to translate the vision of the founding father into a reality to become a long-awaited ray of hope for the millions of hopeless of this country. We rightly take pride in gaining the support and trust of various prestigious international organisations, as transparency, objectivity and impartiality, have been the hallmarks of this programme.

Keeping in view the notion of equality given to us by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the BISP followed a fair and impartial selection criterion for all the deserving families to get registered with it. To serve the downtrodden segments of the society, according to the dictums of the great Quaid, we have introduced various initiatives like monthly cash grants, long-term interest-free financial assistance, and vocational and technical training opportunities for the under­privileged sections of society.

Furthermore, considering education an important instrument of combating poverty, the BISP is all set to launch its Waseela-e-Taleem initiative for the children belonging to these deprived segments of the society. These initiatives are highly significant to break the myth that people belonging to these helpless strata are not capable enough to initiate and run their business or acquire the skills to change their fate. Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is striving hard for the fulfilment of the dreams of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

As far as the service to poor masses and making Pakistan a social welfare State is concerned, the birthday of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah provides us an opportunity to reaffirm our resolve and commitment towards these marginalised segments of society and continue with our struggle to uplift and improve their lives further.

    The writer is federal minister and chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).