KP residents displeased as the Federal Govt discontinues funding for the Sehat Sahulat Card Programme

Sehat Sahulat Card, launched by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is now causing a major rift between the Federal government and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s government. The interim federal government is looking to eliminate the Sehat Card program, resulting in several residents of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) being deprived of free health services, while KP’s government is resisting the motion.

KP’s government expresses displeasure at the decision

Expressing displeasure at the decision, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan said:

I did not expect the federal government to discontinue funds meant for providing free health services to the residents of the tribal districts.

Some senior members of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) accused Federal Minister of Religious Affairs Maulana Asad Mahmood and MNA from North Waziristan Mohsin Dawar of making the federal government discontinue the funds. When contacted, Mohsin Dawar dismissed the charge, saying:

I was neither a member of the cabinet nor part of the federal government to suspend the funds. I have some complaints about the previous PTI government that couldn’t convene a single meeting of the NFC in three years to give their share to the tribal districts. I have nothing to do with the suspension of the funds.

The provincial government accuses the federal government

The PTI-led provincial government has accused the federal government of discontinuing around Rs. 5 billion funds allocated for the Sehat Sahulat Plus Programme for the NMDs. It termed it a violation of the agreement reached between the federal and provincial governments during the previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) rule.

Documents available with a media channel have revealed that the former prime minister Imran Khan had on the 21st of February 2022 approved a summary about the transfer of funds from the National Finance Commission (NFC) award to the KP government to provide free health services to the tribal people under the Sehat Sahulat Plus Programme.

An anonymous senior government official privy to communication between the two governments said:

After codal formalities, the funds were supposed to be transferred to the KP government in July this year. In the meantime, the PTI government was replaced with a new one that decided to stop funds for the NMDs, except Khyber and Bajaur.

The KP Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra said:

The federal government, without any reason, suspended the funds that were pledged to the provincial government earlier under an agreement.

According to the government officials, the agreement between the two governments for free health services was signed up to 2025. After the Fata merge with KP under the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, the then federal government had decided to stop some funds from the NFC award meant for merged districts as it had already started negotiations for an agreement with State Life Insurance Corporation for free coverage.

A government official explained:

Since the agreement was not complete at that time, therefore the then federal government had decided to provide free health services to the people of NMDs. When the KP government in November 2020 extended coverage to its 100 percent population and the federal government had not yet done so, it was decided to include NMDs in the KP Sehat Sahulat programme.

He further shared:

People at that time had raised questions as to how the people of NMDs were excluded from the Sehat Sahulat coverage when 100 percent population of the province was comparatively better off than the tribespeople were enjoying free services.

He also said:

Under an earlier agreement, only 60 percent of NMDs were offered free services under the Sehat card programme. Since the federal government had not signed an agreement for extending the coverage to 100 percent population of Punjab, Kashmir and NMDs, the KP government then negotiated with the federal government and asked them to shift the same amount to them so they can spend it for the tribal people.

After several meetings between government officials of the federal and provincial governments, the then prime minister Imran Khan approved a summary and authorised the transfer of funds.

The approval notification read:

The Prime Minister of Pakistan had approved the summary for harmonising the Sehat Card packages for the residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the former tribal districts on 21-2-2022 (Annex-I) and the same was communicated to and endorsed by Chief Executive Officer, Social Health Protection Initiative (SHPI) of KP Health Department vide letter no. 27-8/2015-PMNHP (Summaries) dated 23-2-2022 & letter no. Health/SHPI/160165 dated 31-3-2022 (Annex II & III). Phase II of all NMD-KP districts (except for Khyber 24-2-2022 and Bajaur 28-2-2022) is going to complete by June 30, 2022. Therefore, it is requested to take immediate actions to execute the approvals of the Prime Minister of Pakistan in the aforesaid summary to ensure the uninterrupted continuity of services to NMD-KP residents, under intimation to this office. The funding-related issues should be dealt with concerning divisions directly by the KP Government. The Ministry of National Health Services and Regulations & Coordination will fully support the efforts.

The government official concluded the statement by saying:

And after a long process and painstaking discussions, the strategy was made and only funds were to be transferred when the PTI lost their government in the centre. The federal government was likely to transfer funds ranging from Rs. 4.06 billion to Rs. 5 billion to the KP government in July.

About the Sehat Sahulat Programme

Sehat Sahulat Program is a milestone towards social welfare reforms; ensuring that the identified under-privileged citizens across the country get access to their entitled medical health care in a swift and dignified manner without any financial obligations. The SSP program’s objective is to improve access of the poor population to good quality medical services, through a micro health insurance scheme.

The KP government was the first in Pakistan that initiated free health services for its population under the Sehat Sahulat Programme. Initially, free health services were made available to a limited number of people and then in November 2020, the provincial government extended the coverage to 100 per cent of the population.

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