President Dr Arif Alvi on Monday made his inaugural address in a joint sitting of the parliament, where he talked about wide-ranging problems plaguing Pakistan and urged the lawmakers to support the govt in taking the country forward.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had claimed that the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party had assured the government that its members will not disrupt the proceedings.
However, the session started with a protest from opposition lawmakers, which was overruled by Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser, following which opposition lawmakers — mostly from the PML-N — walked out as the president began his speech.
"Today's address marks the beginning of the new parliamentary year," President Alvi said. "I am grateful to be elected to Pakistan’s highest Constitutional office, and pray that I will be able to fulfill the responsibilities that have been given to me.
The new president commented on the continuation of parliamentary democracy in the country, saying: "Pakistan’s parliamentary system has been a victim of instability due to various reasons. However, that the fact that past three governments have been able to complete their terms is encouraging."
President Alvi stressed the need to root out corruption and strengthen the nation's various institutions.
"The elections proved that the nation is tired of dishonesty and is looking from relief," he said. "This government wants to make a new Pakistan, and we need to remember that we are one nation.
"On one hand, to rid the nation of corruption, we need saaf shaffaf institutions, on the other hand, we need to strengthen the institutions that are responsible for accountability, so that they could function and do their job without any fear.
"Governments are only successful when they cater to the needs of their people. The current government has set out to make a Naya Pakistan, it is this same slogan that led us to winning the elections."
The president urged his audience to support the government in its austerity drive, and also help it cut down its dependencies on foreign loans.
"I wish that we all take part in the austerity initiatives taken by the government in an effort to create Naya Pakistan," he said. "These measures include ending the practices of protocol for members of the government. If we take on the practice of austerity we could get back on track and head towards the right direction.
"We need to remember the fact that we are a nation in debt. And then we take on more debt to pay off the interest on our old debts, instead of building development projects. According to the law, the loan to GDP ratio should not be more that 60 per cent. However, for the past several years, we have been breaking our own law.
"We need to follow the example of the state of Madinah to take the country forward. In his final address, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had said that no person had any advantage over another on the basis of caste, creed or religion. Islamic nations are based on these principles and Dr Allama Iqbal and Quiad-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah also dreamed of a Pakistan where the welfare of the people is at the fore and the state works for the betterment of its people.
"Pakistan is going through a very difficult phase, but our nation is high-spirited, and it is also heartening to see the way the overseas Pakistanis are looking forward to rebuilding this nation."
President Alvi, in his maiden address, also talked about the growing water crisis in the country. "There is a lack of water in Pakistan," he said. "Our urban centres are facing severe environmental pollution. In these circumstances we need to build dams and plant trees to tackle the issue.
"We need to give a preference to drip irrigation over traditional irrigation processes. As a nation we also need to bring a change in our lifestyles and take on more water conservation practices."
President Alvi called for countrywide improvements in the educational and healthcare sectors, while also urging the empowerment of women, without which he said "no country can progress".
He assured the parliament that Pakistan's relations with other countries during the PTI rule will be further strengthened. "China, the US, Iran and Turkey's FMs [have had meetings with us]," he said. "God willing, our relations with all of them will improve."
The president said that instead of indulging in "blame game" on the Kashmir issue, he would like for the govt to "continue its efforts at every level".
President Alvi also paid tribute to the efforts of Pakistan Army in the war against terrorism, and referred it as "the most successful army", adding that "the world should learn from us".