Pakistan’s ex-PM Sharif, daughter released for his wife’s funeral

Both Sharifs said they had broken no law and there was no proof the residences were purchased with money from corruption. (File/Reuters)
Updated 12 September 2018
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Pakistan’s ex-PM Sharif, daughter released for his wife’s funeral

  • The former premier and his daughter have been given parole for 12 hours but the government of Punjab province is considering an extension so they can attend the funeral on Friday
  • Both Sharifs said they had broken no law and there was no proof the residences were purchased with money from corruption

LAHORE, Pakistan: Pakistani authorities on Wednesday temporarily released former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter from prison to attend funeral services for his wife, Kulsoom, who died of cancer the day before in London.
Video footage from Geo TV showed Sharif walking through Islamabad’s airport amid tight security to be flown to the eastern city of Lahore, near the family home.
The former premier and his daughter have been given parole for 12 hours but the government of Punjab province is considering an extension so they can attend the funeral on Friday. The body is due to be flown back from London on Thursday.
“Initially, we released them on parole for 12 hours but the application they have given to the Punjab government is for five days and we are considering it,” provincial law minister Muhammad Raja Basharat told Reuters.
Ousted as prime minister last year by the Supreme Court over some undeclared income, Nawaz Sharif was in London with Kulsoom this year when a separate anti-graft court handed him a 10-year jail term in absentia over the ownership of luxury flats in London in the 1990s.
Maryam Sharif, his daughter and presumed political heir, was sentenced to seven years in prison on related charges.
Both Sharifs said they had broken no law and there was no proof the residences were purchased with money from corruption.
The father and daughter left Kulsoom’s bedside to return to Pakistan to rally their followers ahead of a July 25 general election. Both were arrested on arrival and have been imprisoned since.
Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which had been in power for five years, lost to the party of former cricket star Imran Khan.
Khan on Tuesday extended condolences to the Sharif family.
Three-time-premier Sharif, who was removed from office in each of his elected terms, has maintained that his most recent ousting in July 2017 and subsequent conviction were part of a plot against him by the military and the judiciary.
The army has repeatedly denied any interference in politics, while the courts insist justice is carried out impartially.


India launches world’s biggest health care scheme, dubbed as ‘Modicare’ 

Updated 23 September 2018
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India launches world’s biggest health care scheme, dubbed as ‘Modicare’ 

  •  “Modicare” plans to provide around $7,000 of medical coverage to half a billion people
  • The program has been launched in 400 districts out of 640 in India

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a mega health care scheme, touted as the world’s biggest public health scheme, on Sunday in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. 

The National Health Protection Scheme, popularly known as “Modicare,” plans to provide around $7,000 of medical coverage to 100 million families or 500 million people, accounting for around 41 percent of people who fall below the poverty line.

 “The aim is to provide medical care to the people standing at the very margin of society. It has been a dream to provide health care to the needy and that dream is coming true today,” Modi said in a speech after inaugurating the scheme.

 “This is the first time in the world that a health care program is being launched where an individual will have an insurance cover of 5 lakh rupees ($7,000).”

The program has been launched in 400 districts out of 640 in India.

The intervention is meant to take the burden off the government hospitals and bring the expensive private hospitals within the reach of poor people.

For Ganesh Yadav, a daily wage earner, the “Ayushman Bharat Yojna,” as the program is officially called, is “a good move by the government if it really works.

 “Last year I spent more than 50,000 rupees ($720) in getting a kidney stone removed in a private hospital and I am still struggling to pay back the debt that I incurred. If the Modicare really works then poor people like me will not have to worry about the expenses in health care,” said Yadav, who lives in Noida, a satellite town of Delhi.

But one doctor raises doubts about the success of the program.

“An earlier health scheme also had the provision for insurance cover but the out-of-cost expenses of the poor people could not come down. There is a lack of clarity on this issue in the new scheme as well,” says Dr. Shakil, a cardiologist based in Patna, the capital of the eastern Indian state of Bihar.
 
Talking to Arab News, he asks: “How will you identify the real beneficiaries? Besides, the scheme will not build public health infrastructure but give benefit to the private players, which I think is the real drawback of this policy.
 
“The government is in a hurry to launch the scheme and not many preparations have gone into it before inaugurating it.”

Economist Venkat Narayana questions the budgetary provisions for the scheme. “Under the scheme 60 percent of expenses would be borne by the central government and 40 percent by the state government. But the poorer states cannot afford the huge sums involved in the expenditure,” says Narayana, who also runs NGOs for poor people in Warangal district in the South Indian state of Telangana.

“My experience suggests that such a program does not address the real health care needs of the people living in villages and smaller cities. The money that the government plans to spend on insurance can be spent in expanding and enriching the medical infrastructure across the country.”

But Nirala, a political activist associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, feels that “this is a visionary intervention in the health care system of the country.

“Modi has tried to address the gap that exists in medical system of the country by bringing private hospitals within the reach of the poor masses,” he told Arab News.

Political analyst Pawan Pratyay, however, feels that Prime Minister Modi "has played a big political gamble in the election year by launching this attractive looking and sounding health care policy.

“The government has been cutting the health budget year after year. By bringing this pro-poor scheme Modi wants to change the pro-rich image that he has acquired over the years and attract the voters from the economically marginalized demography.”