Pakistani Federal Minister lauds India's welfare programmes

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New Delhi, Nov 19 (UNI) Visiting Pakistan Federal Minister Farzana Raja today said she was "highly impressed" with the welfare programmes of the Indian government, especially the health insurance scheme, and feels that India and her country have a great deal to learn from each other's developmental experience.

"We have similar cultures, a common shared history and substantial developmental experience," Ms Raja told a news conference in Yojna Bhavan.

Ms Raja had come to pay a courtesy call on Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Dr Ahluwalia was besides Ms Raja, who is also a spokesperson of the Pakistan's People Party, when the dignitary spoke to the Indian media.

Ms Raja said she was involved in the implemenation of the Benazir Income Support Programme, which involes a cash transfer of Rs 1,000 a month to the poor.

She said in her country the word "poor" is not used as it is derogatory and the expression used is "less priveleged." The programme was formally launched by the Pakistan Federal Government for poor and vulnerable segments of society before Ed-ul- Fiter on September 29. As many as 4.5 million people are intended to benefit from the programme. The Federal government has allocated Rs 3,400 crore for the programme in the Budget.

Ms Raja said the scheme was doing very well and has gone a long way to improve the health conditions of the targetted group. The Benazir Bhutto Income Plan is a government programme.

Ms Raja said the two countries have much to learn from the planning process and experience of each other's country.

She said her government has invited Dr Ahluwalia to visit her country and similarly their Planning Minister would come to India later in the year.

Asked whether the arrangement relating to sharing each other's planning experience can be institutionalised, Dr Ahluwalia said it was already so and involves visits of government leaders to each other countries.

On being asked whether there are problems of modernisation in a Muslim orthodox society, such as those pertaining to family planning, Ms Raja said that it was a misnomer to believe that Pakistan society was too much seeped into traditions and fundamentalist ideology.

She said there was a high degree of acceptance of modern values and a large section of the poulation had a belief in liberal values.

She said the family planning programme in her country was a success story, with women understanding the need for taking recourse to family planning measures.

She said as many 1,00,000 lady midwives were involved to help implement the family planning programme.

Ms Raja said the two-way trade between India and Pakistan needs to be expanded as the two countries can benefit from the complementartties offered by each others countries.

She said the cross LOC trade was carried out on two points-- Poonch-Rawalakot route and Srinagar- Muzaffarabad route.

"There is need to do much more", she said.

Ms Raja said her country, like India, too has been adversely impacted by the global slowdown and her government was doing its best to minimise its impact on Pakistan economy.

UNI GS AKJ RK190

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