- Remarks include praising pandemic response, improvement in economic indicators, initiatives to help poor-income groups among others
President Arif Alvi in his address to the joint session of parliament on Monday to mark the beginning of the new parliamentary year highlighted the achievements of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government over the past three years.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and a number of other senior government officials attended the joint session.
Opposition parties raised slogans criticising the government as National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser invited the president to speak.
Shortly after the president started his address, some members of the opposition staged a walkout.
Under the constitution, the president addresses a joint sitting of the parliament at the beginning of the parliamentary year. After the address, a debate is conducted in the National Assembly (NA) followed by a vote of thanks to the president.
The third parliamentary year of the PTI government ended on August 13.
Outside the parliament, a large number of journalists have been staging a sit-in since Sunday to protest against the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) Bill 2021.
The opposition parties have already extended their support to the journalist community and vowed to resist the PMDA bill, as well as the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2021 due to be passed from the joint session.
A number of politicians, including Senator Sherry Rehman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Shehbaz Sharif, and Raza Rabbani visited the protest camp on Monday and addressed protesters.
The president started his address by congratulating the government for completing three parliamentary years.
He said the government implemented an effective economic approach in the midst of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “Pakistan’s economy has done better when compared to many other countries globally,” he said.
Sharing some indicators of economic progress, he said Pakistan’s exports, remittances have broken all previous records.
“Overseas Pakistanis business confidence index (BCI) on the current government has increased 60 percent,” he said.
Talking about Pakistan’s case at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Alvi said the government’s work to address the forum’s action plan is commendable. “The government has not only made laws and devised procedures to address FATF’s objections but implemented them as well.”
He also talked about the government's Ehsaas programme, introduced to help those most affected by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
"Poverty alleviation programs like Ehsaas Kafaalat, Ehsaas emergency cash, and Ehsaas Koye Bhooka Na Soye are among the government’s key initiatives to help the poor," he said.
Talking about the government’s interventions in the health sector, Alvi said that we are moving towards achieving “universal health coverage.”
Millions of families are already benefitting from this programme, he said, adding that the entire population will benefit from it soon.
Education and SNC
Turning to Pakistan’s education sector, the president said the government has made efforts to implement a single national curriculum. "We have to take such measures to create a united nation," he said, adding that thousands of students are studying for free under the Ehsaas scholarship introduced by the PTI government
Alvi said the government is paying special attention to the rights of women.
"In recent days, incidents of sexual violence against women have emerged and I think it is a national responsibility to take steps to curb such incidents."
He also touched upon the government's efforts to contain the impact of global warming. “Floods and natural disasters are likely to increase,” he said, adding that the 10 billion tree tsunami plantation project will go a long way in addressing the concern.
“The world has acknowledged it (Pakistan's efforts),” he said.
Democracy and EVMs
The president also talked about the growth of democracy in Pakistan, saying free and fair elections are essential and can only happen via electoral reforms.
However, he noted that these reforms won’t happen in this [opposition] noise. “Electronic voting will help in increasing transparency,” he said addressing the opposition leaders present in the assembly.
“I request that the opposition shouldn’t make it a political football as the country’s fate is linked to it.”
Explaining the idea of national security in the 21st century, he said it is no longer linked to border security.
Environment, health, food, and education have become fundamental parts of any country’s national security, he said.
Issues with India
Commenting on Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), he said India is killing innocent Kashmiris and violating human rights.
He said Pakistan has always tried to have good relations with its neighbours, warning that efforts for peace should not be considered a weakness.
Recalling Pakistan's response to India in 2019, Alvi said that "we give India a bloody nose when it tried to attack us".
“I want to tell India that it should stop its injustice in IIOJK and give the Kashmiris their right of self-determination as per the resolutions of the United Nations.”
He thanked China, Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan for supporting Pakistan’s efforts on the issue of Kashmir.
Talking about the illegal sale of large quantities of uranium and radioactive material, he said the availability of nuclear material in India is a threat, and the international media should not remain silent on the issue.
Mentioning its biasness, he said if this had happened in any other country, the entire Western media would have been up in arms.
Afghanistan peace efforts
Talking about Pakistan’s role in the ongoing peace efforts in Afghanistan, Alvi said that Pakistan has played a "significant role", adding that Islamabad wants the Taliban to “unite Afghan people.”
Addressing the international community, he said that the “world should not leave the Afghan people alone” as that can lead to a massive humanitarian crisis.
The international community should help in Afghanistan’s rebuilding, Alvi advised.
Talking about Pakistan’s medical and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, the president said that the country is "doing its best".