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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Pakistan’s PM takes a new initiative: Homes for Homeless

News Desk |

Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, on Friday, 14 Dec 2018, inaugurated a newly established shelter home for homeless people in the provincial capital of Peshawar. He was there to celebrate his party’s 100 day government in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – commonly referred to as KP.

The project, in Peshawar, is aimed at housing those homeless people and poor travelers, from different cities, who end up spending nights on footpaths or other open places in different areas of the provincial capital. Earlier PM Khan had instructed the Chief Minister of Punjab, Usman Buzdar, to set up tents for homeless people across Pakistan’s largest province till proper shelter homes, being referred to as “Panah Gahs” are set up.

Shelter Homes: A Roof over the head

In Peshawar, the main shelter home inaugurated on Friday, at Pajoggi Road, can accommodate more than 200 homeless in its 20 rooms. More than 50 reached the place on its first day. These homeless people will be provided with sleeping beds, evening meals and morning breakfasts. They are supposed to leave after the breakfast. Idea is to provide roof over the head especially in view of the extreme weather. “Prime Minister is very sensitive to the plight of those who face winters without a roof over their heads”: a provincial government source told GVS.

At Pajoggi shelter home medical facilities, and wheel chairs have been provided for the sick and those with special needs and CCTV cameras have been put up to ensure security- provincial government claimed.

According to Secretary Social Welfare Department, Muhammad Idrees Marwat, initially five shelters homes have been established in Peshawar at Kohat Adda, Charsadda Road, Karkhano, Hajji Camp and Pajaggai Road to provide better facilities to homeless and needy people.

“My inspiration comes from the last Prophet who set up an ideal welfare state in Medina. I want Pakistan to become like that. A humanistic, not an animalistic state”.

Shelter Homes with a human face

The one at Pajaggi Road is apparently the biggest with most modern facilities. More centers may be set up in Peshawar and other cities of the province. Pajaggai Road shelter home is equipped with all latest facilities including UPS to cater towards electricity failures, geysers for warm water, electricity supply and medical care facilities, sources revealed. Over 430 people can be accommodated in these five shelter homes where they will also be provided with free food. Women and homeless people will also be housed in the shelters – though not all centers can accommodate women at this stage.

Peshawar is apparently the second shelter homes project initiated so far, earlier in Punjab temporary facilities were created with the onset of winter cold wave.

Late last month, PM Khan said: “I have asked CM Punjab to set up tents for people sleeping on footpaths and provide them food until the Panah Gahs (shelters) are built, as the weather is turning increasingly cold. Peshawar and Karachi spot also being located.”

Read more: Shelter and food for everyone: PM Khan makes sure

The tents in Lahore are temporary until the completion of proper shelter homes. Prime Minister Khan had laid the foundation of shelter home project on November 10 in Lahore which has now been expanded to Peshawar. Sources reveal that Peshawar project was in making for sometime. PTI ruled KP after the 2013 elections; it won Punjab only in July 2018 elections when PMLN, of Nawaz Sharif, lost power in Punjab and the Center.

State of Medina & European Welfare State: PM Khan’s dual Inspiration

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief, Imran Khan, soon after taking office said that he envisioned to set up a Medina-like welfare state which will be sympathetic towards widows and the weaker sections of the society. He has often mentioned the “State of Medina” and the “European Welfare State” in same breath. In his first public address, Khan shared his vision for Pakistan and pledged to safeguard the interests of ordinary citizens.

Despite the skepticism from certain quarters; this initiative has been appreciated by politicians, diplomats, and international organizations.

“I want to share the kind of Pakistan I envision – the type of state that was established in Madina, where widows and the poor were taken care of,” the 65-year-old cricketer-turned-politician had said. “My inspiration comes from the last Prophet who set up an ideal welfare state in Medina. I want Pakistan to become like that. A humanistic, not an animalistic state”.

I pledge to our people that I will introduce a system that is for the masses, all policies will be for the people and not for the elite,” he vowed. “I will live humbly. So far we have seen that everyone who comes to power changes. That will not happen with me,” he promised.

Read more: Tents initiative: Bitter critics appreciate Prime Minister Khan

The launching of shelter homes in Lahore and Peshawar, in quick succession, indicate that he intends to make progress on his vision. However given the perilous state of Pakistani economy expansion of this program may represent a huge challenge.

How will this system work?

There is not much clarity at this stage but according to sources, in the provincial government of KP, these shelter homes will only be opened late in the evening till the morning of next day. Those who take refuge are supposed to leave after breakfast. This measure has been taken to ensure that these shelter homes are not occupied permanently by anyone. This may remind of the role mosques and shrines have played in the initial Muslim era. Moreover, the provincial government has ensured that no drugs are brought in the premises of these shelter homes – CCTV cameras are supposed to help with this.

However, the scope of this project is still unknown. It is also not clear how the government plans to sustain this project which is set to house thousands of homeless people in the future. Population of KP alone is almost 50 million and thousands may be homeless across its difficult terrains.

Read more: Delhi homeless to be given masks as smog worsens: official

Many in Pakistani media – like the prominent columnist, Dr. Pervaiz Hoodbhoy, are also worried about PM Khan’s continuous references towards the “State of Medina” and if this is some sort of religious vision. But most also hear the Pakistani Prime Minister referring towards the European welfare state. Despite the skepticism from certain quarters; his initiatives since the July speech have been appreciated by opposition politicians, western diplomats, and international organizations.