ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday launched the Sehat Insaf Card facility for the transgender community, for the first time in the country’s history, to provide succor to, what he said, the most vulnerable segments of the society.

Addressing the launching ceremony of Sehat Insaf Card as a chief guest, the prime minister regretted that the previous governments never took responsibility for the most vulnerable sections of the society, including the transgender.

The present government, he said, had taken the responsibility for the transgender community and would give them ‘a sense of ownership’. “Pakistan was created on great ideas of justice, humanity and humane feelings for the downtrodden, he added.

Criticising the past regimes, he said they did not even acknowledge the existence of the transgender community.

“The incumbent government, however, would provide them full protection in the society by removing negative perceptions about them,” he assured.

PM Imran told the gathering the government was determined to provide health cards and insurance to all the weaker segments of the society.

“The initiative will cater to the health requirements of people belonging to the transgender community registered with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), the Islamabad Capital Territory, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and all other provinces.

Speaking about the ‘economic turnaround’ by the government, the prime minister said that the government faced the most difficult economic challenges last year, but the year 2020 would dawn with progress and prosperity for the country.

“The government took steps for the economic stability during 2019, and now will focus on jobs creation for the youth along with giving boost to the industry,” he said, and claimed that the recently introduced National Accountability Bureau (NAB) amendment ordinance was a step in the right direction.

The prime minister also referred to the government’s flagship social security Ehsaas programme introduced for lessening economic ordeals of the poor families.

He said foodstuff would be provided to the people at utility stores at subsidized rates, besides issuance of the ration cards was also on the cards to enable the deserving people to get food items. “Moreover, the network of ‘lungars’ would be spread so that no needy person could go without food,” PM Imran said, adding that loan facility was also being extended to the youth.

“In the year 2020, we will now move forward on the path of progress and prosperity,” the prime minister added.

He recalled how the poor people could not afford treatment of their ailing family members due to their meager resources.

PM Imran also appreciated his Special Assistant on Health Dr Zafar Mirza for floating the idea for extending such facility to the transgender community, saying they had been facing myriad social problems.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said a total of 6.8 million families had been provided with the Sehat Insaf cards, and they were making strenuous efforts to target all the 15 million deserving ones by the end of next year.

“The Sehat Sahulat programme was launched in 84 districts of the country where total 300 private sector hospitals are providing services to the deserving people,” he said, and added, “About 50 percent of the country’s total population is living below the poverty line, which would be benefited by the ‘potable insurance’ facility.”

Dr Mirza said the idea had been discussed at the cabinet meeting, which had approved it. He said the government’s social security programmes would have far reaching effects on the vulnerable communities.

“As per the decision of the prime minister, the Sehat Insaf Cards have been given to all families in Tharparkar and tribal districts, and now the government is working on provision of cards in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan,” he informed.

The special assistant said the government had collected data about the transgender with the assistance of their community leaders.

He said with such facility, the families would get the facilities of surgeries and treatment for different chronic diseases.

Dr Mirza also lauded the promulgation of Transgender Protection Act to ensure members of the community were treated at par with other citizens by ending discrimination against them in all the sectors.

Later, the prime minister also distributed Sehat Insaf cards among the members of the transgender community on the occasion.

Talking to APP at the venue, Reem Sharif, a transgender, who is employed in a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Islamabad, lauded the initiative what she believed was a step forward towards inclusiveness of the society.

She said, earlier the people belonging to the transgender community had to face discriminatory treatment at hospitals, but the Sehat Insaf Cards would grant them equal right to treatment at designated private hospitals across the country.

Lubna Naz, also a transgender, who hails from Lahore and is doing job at the United Nations Development Programme, said the credit went to Imran Khan and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf for thinking about the betterment of the community, which had faced neglect during the previous governments.

She requested the government to also launch a housing facility for the transgender community and called for true implementation of the bill passed by the parliament last year for the protection of their rights.

Muhammad Faisal Qureshi, a teenage transgender, recently employed in the Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal, also spoke highly of extending health insurance to the community by the government and believed that it would give them protection and confidence in case of any medical emergency.