ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi will address a joint sitting of parliament on Sept 13 which will formally mark the beginning of the fourth parliamentary year of the present National Assembly.
The decision to convene the joint sitting of the two houses of parliament for the constitutionally mandatory presidential address was made at a meeting between Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser here on Monday.
Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination and former NA speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza and federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar also joined the meeting in which the new calendar for the fourth parliamentary year was also reviewed, according to an official handout issued by the NA Secretariat.
Speaking on the occasion, Speaker Asad Qaiser stressed the need for bringing pending laws, especially those related to public welfare, to assembly for passage on priority basis. He said performance of the NA during its third year was “commendable” and the credit for it went to lawmakers of the treasury and the opposition benches.
Opposition, journalists gear up for protest sit-in
Mr Awan said that pending legislation would be brought before the house for passage after fulfilling requirements provided under the Rules of Business and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly.
Soon after the official announcement about the decision to convene the joint session, the journalists’ bodies announced that they would hold a protest rally outside the Parliament House on Sept 12 which would then be converted into a 24-hour sit-in to protest against the frequent physical attacks on journalists, forced sackings from media organisations, non-payment of salaries to the media workers and the government’s proposal to set up Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) to regulate print, electronic and social media.
Besides journalists and media organisations, the opposition parties have also vowed to resist the move to set up the PMDA, terming it an attempt to further gag the media and voices of dissent.
Informed sources told Dawn that opposition parties were also considering the option of lodging a strong protest during the presidential address.
However, the final strategy in this regard would be approved by them after consultations in the next few days.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government had been reluctant to convene the joint sitting of the parliament due to unclear situation in Afghanistan and the protest call given by the country’s journalist organisations to stage a sit-in.
According to the sources, the government had previously decided to hold the joint sitting in the first week of September, but postponed it in the wake of the constant demand from the opposition for a thorough parliamentary debate on the situation in Afghanistan after the August 15 Taliban takeover of Kabul.
The mandatory address of the President under Article 56(3) of the Constitution has been due since August 13, the starting date of the new parliamentary year.
A meeting of the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) was held here on Monday to finalise a plan for the protest sit-in on Sept 13 during the presidential address.
The participants decided that the “Freedom of Press Rally” would commence from National Press Club on Sept 12 at 4pm and culminate in front of the Parliament House. After reaching its end point, the rally will then be turned into a 24-hour sit-in. It is expected that political and religious parties, lawyers, students and business bodies will also participate in the sit-in.
It has been decided that prominent TV anchorpersons will hold talk shows from the site of the sit-in throughout the night. The symbolic sit-in will end after the president’s address on Sept 13.
Through the proposed law seeking to set up the PMDA, the government wants to regulate films, electronic, print and digital media, including Web TV and news websites, while repealing all the current media-related laws. A joint committee of the media organisations in the country had already unanimously rejected the government’s attempt to establish the PMDA.
The committee comprising the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors, All Pakistan Newspapers Society, Pakistan Broadcasters Association, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors in a statement had declared that it was planning to invite all human rights groups, lawyers and other sections of civil society to join hands in stopping the outrageous move by the government to put more curbs on the media.
On the other hand, despite resistance by the opposition parties and representatives of media bodies, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, while talking to representatives of digital media platforms on August 15, had expressed the government’s desire to set up the regulatory authority.
“We need to think over fake news, sectarian news and hate material. We are setting up PMDA. The digital media is our future,” the minister had stated. According to him, it was in the “public interest” that digital media was regulated to control “abusive, harmful and hateful content”.
Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2021