President Asif Ali Zardari. — File Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has summoned the National Assembly session on March 14 and is likely to address a joint sitting of parliament on March 17.

According to an official announcement on Friday, the Presidency summoned the NA session on the advice of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

“The summoning of the session has been rescheduled in view of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s Asia Regional Conference to be held on March 12-16 in Karachi because it would not be possible for several parliamentarians, including Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza, to attend the NA session that was earlier called on March 12,” the president’s spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, said. After the NA session is prorogued, a joint sitting of the two houses of parliament will be called on March 17, he said, adding that it would be the fifth address of the president to the joint sitting.

According to officials, President Zardari will highlight four years’ performance of the PPP-led coalition government and speak about “what to do” in the period leading to the next general election.

The 40th National Assembly session — the last sitting of the fourth parliamentary year — was called to elect senators from the federal capital, but it may not be prorogued and continue to discuss some key issues, including Pakistan-US relations against the backdrop of Nato air strikes on Salala checkpost in November, the memo scandal and the law and order situation in Balochistan.

Recommendations prepared by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security on future relations with the United States may also come up for discussion.

The committee began its proceedings on Dec 2 with a note of advice from Prime Minister Gilani that ties with the US were important for a peaceful settlement of the Afghan imbroglio, but needed recalibration in accordance with strategic interests.

President Zardari is likely to face heckling and rough opposition during his speech. Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, has said in a statement: “It will not be a smooth sailing for the coalition this time during the joint sitting.”

A PML-N spokesman told Dawn that a strategy would be prepared before the joint sitting and Chaudhry Nisar had informed the party leadership about it.

Although he did not elaborate, observers think that the opposition is likely to play up the government’s inability to hold the earlier announced joint session of parliament to debate and approve the fresh terms of engagement with the US, prepared and handed over by the parliamentary committee.

The government had announced that the PCNS’s report would be presented in the joint sitting, which may be held in camera.

The lower house is expected to approve the Industrial Relations Act 2012, which was passed by the Senate on Tuesday, to meet the deadline of March 17. The ordinance will lapse after that date.

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