In joint NA session, President Alvi urges lawmakers to 'end polarisation' and decide election date together
President Dr Arif Alvi, in an address to the joint session of the Parliament on Thursday, called on politicians to end growing polarisation in the country and decide on an election date by coming together.
"People can only be united if politicians are united," he said, highlighting that eliminating differences was the "need of the hour".
The joint session of the National Assembly today was called in line with articles 54(1) and 56(3) of the Constitution.
The session was sparsely attended, with the majority of MNAs missing from both benches. Those in attendance were seen freely mingling and talking amongst one another while the president was speaking.
Meanwhile, Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed chanted slogans calling for MNA Ali Wazir's production orders to be issued, even as the president continued speaking. He later staged a protest in front of the NA speaker's rostrum with Senator Tahir Bizenjo and MNA Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali.
At the outset of his address today, the president expressed that the biggest problem Pakistan was facing today was the catastrophic floods that wreaked havoc across the country and rendered millions homeless.
"I want to felicitate the Pakistan Army for helping victims while sacrificing their lives. The federal and provincial governments, PDMA (Provincial Disaster Management Authority), and NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) all worked hard on the ground. I thank all of them."
Dr Alvi pointed out that if the relief work was not done on time, the human and economic losses from the floods would have been higher.
Pakistan's contribution to global warming was not even 1 per cent, but the country was suffering the most, he said. "I want to commend agencies and the government for the way they worked. I believe they deserve commendation."
The president said that the disastrous floods had damaged crops spread over acres and underscored the need for crop insurance.
"Agriculture is our economic backbone. We must look towards countries that are progressing in this sector.
"The Netherlands is 19 times smaller than Pakistan but it progressed so much on the agricultural front, and my country should have progressed more in this field. If we adopt a scientific approach, Pakistan can beat the world," he stated.
Dr Alvi also said that the recent floods had, once again, raised the demand for building dams.
'Ties with US improving'
Talking about foreign affairs in his speech today, the president lauded the government for improving ties with the United States, saying that the country had been a "good friend" to Pakistan.
"We have seen ups and downs but the US is a big market for our goods. We want to improve ties on mutual understanding. The government is striving for it and I commend this."
Dr Alvi also underscored the importance of Pakistan's ties with China. "I believe the Pakistan-China friendship is a real one and CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) is an example of it."
The president went on that Pakistan's stance on Ukraine was clear and the country expected ties with Europe to strengthen.
Talking about Afghanistan, he said: "We have a clear position that we want peace there. Taliban have promised that their soil will not be used against terrorism and we expect everyone to keep their word."
Dr Alvi went on that Pakistan wanted a "broad-based government" in the neighbouring country.
About India, he said that Pakistan desired better ties with India but only after a resolution of the Kashmir dispute. "We believe Hindutva mindset and Islamophobia are being exported and I want India to not do this because it has an impact."
President Alvi, while talking about the economy, stressed the maintenance of balance.
"Pakistan should stand on its feet. We need hard work. We don't have oil reserves, but we have land and gold. We need to stand up. We reached a growth of up to 5.9pc and it shows we have capacity."
The president also highlighted political stability and urged the government to work harder to contain inflation.
He said the dollar-rupee parity was worrisome but hoped that it would soon be tackled.
"Every chamber I speak to demand continuation in policies. Even if the governments change, policies should continue," Alvi added.
The president highlighted that the entire world was upset with fake news.
Referring to the recent audio leaks, he said that private conversations should not be made available out in the public and they should stay "where they belong".
Talking about the freedom of media, the president underlined that it was an important part of the freedom of democracy. "I want to bring this to the government's attention because it is extremely important."
He also said that social media was booming and this should be used as a source of knowledge. "These things won't be fixed through force. We just need to be careful about it."
'Work on EVMs should continue'
At one point during his address, the president also called for the continuation of the work on electronic voting machines (EVM). "I believe we should work on this and not delay it."
He said that people claim the last free and fair elections in the country were held in 1970, adding that most of the people didn't trust the election results.
"How would stability come when you keep challenging all election results?"
He further demanded that overseas Pakistanis — who he said send $30 billion to the country— should be given their voting rights.
"Of all these people, only 5-10pc are dual nationals. The parliament and Supreme Court have also recommended giving them voting rights. You should ensure no cheating takes place, and this right has to be given."
Education and health
Bringing the parliament's attention towards education, Dr Alvi warned against neglecting the youth as he called for the inclusion of children who were out of school. "Members of parliament must focus on this.
"I have spoken to ulema that mosques should have sessions to provide school education. If you can't provide education to children, give them skills," he highlighted.
The president said that online education could be used for infusing knowledge among the youth. "There are good educational institutions that can help in this initiative."
Pakistan also needed to build a mechanism to provide employment to the people, he added.
In the field of science and technology, Alvi stressed that children needed to be prepared for the future. "Several smaller countries are ahead of Pakistan in cyber power while our policies are weak in this respect."
Our defence establishment needed cyber power to protect the utilities and financial institutions, he said, adding that in the future, wars would be fought in the cyber world, hence, Pakistan needed to focus on that.
Moving to the health sector, President Alvi emphasised the provision of contraceptives, saying that when economies improved, family sizes shrunk.
Also, stunting was another problem Pakistan was facing.
Furthermore, he appreciated the Benazir Income Support Programme and Ehsaas Poverty Alleviation Programme for their performance. He also thanked the Bill Gates Foundation for its polio eradication efforts in the country.
During his speech, Dr Alvi particularly highlighted the importance of curing diseases linked to mental illnesses stressing that there were society's "silent killers".
"We need to make cures affordable and increase the number of medical practitioners. We need to raise awareness about telehealth helplines and educate the poor segments of our society regarding it."
Moreover, the president said that women should be given chances to work in public offices and urged lawmakers to work on eliminating harassment.
Bilawal demands Alvi's impeachment
After the president's address, Foreign Minister and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari took to Twitter and demanded Alvi's impeachment.
"President Arif Alvi's complicit in unconstitutional efforts to sabotage vote of no confidence, violating the Constitution and his oath in order to undermine transfer of power," he said.
Therefore, Bilawal added, the PPP joined allies in boycotting his address. "We demand efforts to impeach him must begin as soon as possible."