ISLAMABAD, APR 11 – Prime Minister Imran Khan expanded the operations of the Ehsaas Koi Bhooka Na Soye [No one goes to bed hungry] programme to three more cities — Lahore, Faisalabad and Peshawar — on Sunday.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said that the premier had announced the extension of the programme before the arrival of the holy month of Ramazan.

While addressing the extension ceremony in Islamabad, he said that initially a pilot programme of mobile kitchens (kitchens on trucks) had been launched in Islamabad to assess what issues would come up.

“Now you can see it has been started in Peshawar, Lahore and Faisalabad. And this is the beginning — our idea is that we want to spread a network of kitchens [and] meals on wheels across Pakistan and they will then cover all the areas where there is the most poverty and people sleep hungry.”

The prime minister said that blessings and prosperity came from God but it was up to humans to make the effort for them. He said he wanted the office bearers in government and ministers to realise that “their biggest responsibility after coming into power is towards the segment that is poor”.

He questioned why Pakistan hadn’t followed the path set by the state of Medina despite being founded in the name of Islam. “Even though our situation is difficult— there is debt, little money is left to spend on the people — despite that, God’s order is to follow that path. This path is of rule of law and of humanity, that we take responsibility for our poor segment.”

The premier said that God’s blessings would shine upon Pakistan once the state took responsibility for delivering meals to people who couldn’t afford them.

“We don’t realise what a huge asset is lying in our country — the people who give charity. We are among the only countries where people give the most charity, we are very lucky people,” said the prime minister, adding that the people’s charity had supported the running of his Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital.

The prime minister also cited other measures taken for the benefit of the poor such as the government’s Panagah (shelter) programme and universal health coverage.

Prime Minister Imran Khan concluded his address by calling upon the public to participate and donate to the programme with charity before Ramazan. “This is the perfect way to do so. You will receive our numbers and website — participate in any way you can. When government and people join hands, this network will spread in entire Pakistan.”

The programme was launched in Islamabad and Rawalpindi last month under which the poor and labour classes would be provided free meal boxes twice a day through mobile trucks at various points of the twin cities.

Under the programme, a concept of mobile kitchens was introduced which would be plied all over the country to provide free meal to the needy and hungry people. “Koi Bhooka Na Soye programme is the beginning of Pakistan’s transformation into a welfare state,” the prime minister had said at the launching ceremony.

Each food truck feeds 1,500-2,000 people daily on specified service points. The meals are cooked, stored and served from a truck kitchen. Later this year, the programme will be upscaled phase-wise to other parts of the country.