ISLAMABAD: Delaying his parliamentary address, President Asif Zardari has now summoned a joint sitting of both houses of parliament on April 18, as the National Assembly Secretariat on Sunday issued a six-point agenda for the sitting on Monday (today), which includes the laying of an ordinance promulgated by the caretaker government and a calling attention notice on the issue of the construction of a barrage on Ravi River by India.

“President Asif Ali Zardari has summoned the joint session of the Parliament on Thursday, April 18, 2024 at 4pm. The president has summoned the joint session of Parliament in exercise of the powers conferred by Articles 54(1) and 56(3) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” said an official announcement of the Presidency.

“The earlier notification to call the joint session of the parliament on April 16 stands cancelled,” it said, without giving any reason.

Sources in the NA Secretariat, however, told Dawn that the president had taken the decision on the demand of the lawmakers, mostly belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), who had expressed some reservations over calling of the joint sitting soon after the Eid holidays as they wanted to spend some more time in their home constituencies.

Zardari set to make history by addressing parliament for record seventh time

The sources said that the president had delayed the joint sitting for a couple of days on the request of the party members who met him at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, where he had addressed a public meeting in connection with the death anniversary of the party’s founding chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Seventh address

This will be President Zardari’s record seventh address to the joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate as during his five-year stint in the Presidency from September 2008 to 2013, he had already addressed the parliament six times. President Zardari’s sixth address on April 16, 2013, too, was a record as no other president had addressed so many joint sittings before him.

It was some abhorrence of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for the National Assembly that gave Mr Zardari an extra sixth chance, instead of five, to address a joint sitting.

Gen Musharraf had addressed the joint sitting as president only once in 2004, in the face of strong opposition protests, and never came to the parliament again till his resignation in August 2008.

He had not called a joint sitting even after the February 2008 elections and that constitutional requirement was then fulfilled by President Zardari and since then, his predecessors Mamnoon Hussain and Dr Arif Alvi continued this practice of addressing the joint sitting at the beginning of each parliamentary year.

President Zardari is likely to face a strong protest by the members belonging to the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the party which has been protesting over the conviction and detention of former prime minister and its founding chairman Imran Khan and the alleged rigging in the Feb 8 general elections.

NA session

Meanwhile, the National Assembly Secretariat has issued a six-point agenda for the Monday’s (today’s) sitting. It includes a calling-attention notice submitted by PML-N MNA Malik Bashir Awan on the issue of the “shortage of urea fertiliser” in the country and another one by an independent Rai Hassan Nawaz Khan “regarding Indian aggression on the water rights of Pakistan through its recent completion of the Shahpur Kandi Barrage on the Ravi River.”

Besides, Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar will lay the Apostille Ordinance, 2024 (No. I of 2024) before the National Assembly as required by Article 89(2) of the Constitution.

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar will present the Annual Report 2022 of the Election Commission of Pakistan as required under sub-section (2)of Section 16 of the Elections Act, 2017.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2024

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