ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi addresses the joint session of parliament on Monday.—White Star
ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi addresses the joint session of parliament on Monday.—White Star

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Monday told the opposition that the country was passing through industrial growth and prosperity which could not be stopped by protests and demonstrations.

“Shout but accept the reality that the country is passing through the path of industrial growth,” the president said while responding to the opposition’s protest and shouting during his address to a joint session of parliament.

The opposition raised slogans when the president started his speech in the National Assembly, surrounded Speaker Asad Qaisar’s dais and later boycotted the session.

The opposition leaders, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, not only staged a demonstration inside the house but also joined media protest held outside the Parliament House.

Opposition leaders raise slogans during presidential address, boycott joint session

The president in his speech highlighted what he called “successes and achievements” of the government due to its ‘prudent’ policies during the three years of its five-year term.

Earlier, the sitting of the two houses of parliament was scheduled to take place at 11am on Monday, but due to complaints lodged by some PTI parliamentarian its time was changed to 4pm.

For the first time in the country’s parliamentary history, the National Assembly Secretariat closed the press gallery, barring journalists from covering the session.

“Due to the government’s prudent policies, Pakistan has achieved significant progress in diverse areas, including economy, human and social development, information technology, foreign policy and defence,” President Alvi said.

He mentioned an increase in exports from $23.7 billion in fiscal year 2019-20 to $25.3bn in 2020-21, historic workers’ remittances recorded at $29.4bn, vibrancy in stock market, improvement in ease of doing business and enhanced investors’ confidence as some of the government’s achievements.

The president said that with 18 per cent growth in revenue collection recorded at Rs4,732bn in 2020-21, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has registered an increase of Rs160bn in collection against the target during the first two months of the current fiscal.

He said that with the record sale and purchase of 2.21 billion shares in one session in May 2021 alone, Pakistan’s stock market got the distinction of best market in Asia and fourth in the world.

President Alvi said Pakistan, which had got 28 points of improvement in the World Bank’s ranking of ease of doing business two years back, has also won the confidence of overseas investors through 60pc increase in the Business Confidence Index (BCI) in a survey by the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Enhanced revenue collections and workers’ remittances indicate full confidence in the government’s policies,” he added.

Women’s rights

The government, President Alvi said, had passed laws to protect the rights of special persons and women as well as to eliminate sexual crimes, adding that unfortunately, some cases of sexual crimes were reported from different parts of the country, but the government made legislation to curb the evil which needed to be enforced.

He said the refusal of property rights to women still pervaded in some parts of the country which was unfortunate for a Muslim country as Allah Almighty had guided the followers in detail on the subject. He urged society, particularly ulema, to play their role in creating awareness and countering such traditions.

President Alvi said that considering the risks posed by global warming to Pakistan, Imran Khan had launched the ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and later ‘10 billion Tree Tsunami’ countrywide, as well as Clean and Green Pakistan Programme, to help steer the country out of the challenge.

Electoral reforms

Coming to the democratic system, the president said the electoral reforms were essential which could not be achieved through commotion. He said electronic voting machine would ensure transparency, voters’ privacy and swift results as it also featured a counter to calculate votes. Moreover, the government is also taking measures like i-voting to grant voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.

India and Kashmir

Talking about the government’s foreign policy, President Alvi said India had been committing genocide of Kashmiri people as well as targeting Indian Muslim minorities.

“PM Imran Khan, who had called himself as Ambassador of Kashmir, exposed the real face of India globally. Pakistan always strived to maintain friendly ties with the world which was also manifested by the prime minister in his maiden speech, but it was construed as Pakistan’s weakness by India,” he added.

Moreover, he said, Pakistan’s gesture of releasing captured Indian pilot in 2019 was also taken as the country’s weakness.

President Alvi asked India to end its atrocities in occupied Kashmir and abide by the United Nations resolutions.

He assured the Kashmir people that Pakistan was committed to its stance and thanked China, Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan for supporting Pakistan’s stance on the issue. “Fascist ideology of RSS is a threat to regional peace and that India has also been involved in sponsoring terrorism in the region,” he added.

Mr Alvi said repeated incidents of uranium sale were deadly for regional security, but unfortunately the world media was keeping a mum on the issue.

Afghanistan

The president said PM Imran Khan had been calling for political settlement in Afghanistan and opposed the military solution, adding that even after decades of war and spending trillions of dollars, peace could not be revived in Afghanistan.

Terming Taliban’s announcement for amnesty encouraging, he urged the world community not to leave the Afghan people in lurch rather make efforts to avert humanitarian and economic crises.

Pakistan generously hosted 3.5-4m Afghan refugees on its soil for decades. The countries which had been championing for the cause of human rights even did not accept refugees and let them drowned in the Mediterranean.

The president said different regional fora like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) should be utilised for promotion of regional linkages. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said, would further strengthen the linkages among the regional economies.

He said Pakistan attached high priority to its ties with China that had played a vital part in the economic development and prosperity of Pakistan.

Expressing his confidence, the president said ill designs of certain elements in the region to harm these time-tested ties were doomed to fail. “I want to remind India that the friendship bonds between Pakistan and China will grow further,” he added.

President Alvi paid rich tributes to the sacrifices rendered by the armed forces, law enforcement agencies, civil forces and the nation who had jointly defeated the scourge of terrorism.

He stressed the need for discouraging the trend of fake news which, he said, had brought destruction in the world.

Opposition’s protest

The opposition staged a protest demonstration inside the National Assembly when the president started his address. The opposition members carrying placards were raising slogans like “Go Niazi go”, “Atta chor, chinee chor”, “media curbs are not acceptable”, etc.

They also went to the speakers’ dais and raised slogans so that the president could not concentrate on his speech. Later, the opposition boycotted the session and joined the media persons protesting “media curbs” outside the Parliament House.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2021

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