LAHORE - The Punjab government has launched Khidmat Card in an effort to support physically-challenged people.

In its first phase, this two billion rupees programme will provide financial assistance - Rs3600 on quarterly basis - to two hundred thousand deserving people across the province.

The chief minister formally launched Punjab Khidmat Card Programme by pressing a laptop button at his office yesterday. Later, he distributed the cards among a few deserving persons at the CM Secretariat by reaching out to their seats.

Speaking on the occasion, Shahbaz Sharif the programme was initiated to make disabled persons active and useful members of the society. “Khidmat Card has been launched throughout the province after evolving a comprehensive procedure of payment, which could uphold self-respect of the recipients.

“Disabled persons are Pakistanis and have the spirit to serve the country rather than burden on society,” he added.

The CM said that committees have been constituted at district level for payment to the physically-challenged persons while the whole process will be strictly monitored to keep it transparent.

Shahbaz Sharif lauded Punjab Finance Minister Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha and her team for launching the Khidmat Card Programme.

Dr Pasha, addressing the function, threw light on the aims and objectives of Khidmat Cards, which is the first-ever such programme for disabled in Pakistan.

“This programme will help in making disabled persons respectable, independent and important members of the society. With this programme, vocational training will be imparted to the disabled persons besides interest-free loans,” she added.

CM’s Health Adviser Kh Salman Rafique told the gathering that centers for rehabilitation for disabled persons have been set up at Recep Tayyip Erdogan Hospital, Muzaffargarh, and Shahbaz Sharif Hospital Badian Road, Lahore.

He added the government will establish similar centers in other cities as well.

Clearing his position on the gang-rape of a 15-year-old girl in Lahore, the chief minister said all the accused were apprehended while DNA tests were being conducted at the best forensic lab of South Asia.

“We’ve formed a committee comprising honest police officers to probe the case while the inquiry result will be made public. Whosoever found guilty will not be able to escape punishment,” Shahbaz Sharif added.

About the inhumane act of influential people in Hafizabad who chopped off hands of a labourer, the chief minister said no one is above the law. The criminals will face music, said Shahbaz, adding that an inquiry committee was constituted for the purpose.

Punjab will welcome Sri Lankan investments: A Sri Lankan delegation, led by Minister for Public Administration and Management Ranjith Madduma Bandara, called on Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif yesterday.

Both sides shared views on the matters of mutual interest, bilateral relations and promotion of cooperation in agriculture, education, health, tourism, skill development and public administration.

The Sri Lankan delegation expressed keen interest in investment in small hydel projects in Punjab.

Speaking on the occasion, the chief minister shed light on the strong friendly relations between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, particularly referring to the Lankan cooperation in the control and eradication of worst dengue epidemic in 2010.

He also underlined the need for increasing exchange of delegations of the two countries for promoting bilateral cooperation in different sectors. “Sri Lankan investors should benefit from the vast investment opportunities in Punjab,” the CM said while promising all out facilities to them.

Shahbaz also laid stress on increasing mutual contacts between the industrialists of Sri Lanka and Punjab and maximizing exchange of their delegations of chambers of commerce, which he added, will go a long way to strengthen economic and trade relations.

Members of the Sri Lankan delegation expressed their willingness to invest in small hydel projects in Punjab, saying that measures will be taken with the collaboration of Punjab government for promotion of bilateral cooperation.