President Dr Arif Alvi on Monday addressed the joint sitting of parliament, marking the beginning of the new parliamentary year, the fourth of the current Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government, amid protests by the opposition and the media persons, outside the Parliament House.
The parliament’s press gallery was empty because the journalists were barred from entering it during the presidential address. It was ironic that the president acknowledged role of the media in his address but found the press gallery empty, perhaps, for the first time in the parliamentary history.
In his address, Alvi praised the policies of the PTI government, saying that Pakistan achieved significant progress in diverse areas such as the economy, human and social development, information technology, foreign policy and the defence sector because of the “prudent policies of the government”.
Backing the electoral reforms, Alvi said the electronic voting machines (EVMs) would ensure transparency, voters’ privacy and swift transmission of results as it featured a counter to calculate votes. “Moreover, the government is also taking measures like i-voting to grant voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.”
About the foreign policy, the president said that India had been committing genocide of Kashmiris as well as targeting the Muslim minorities. He added the prime minister of Pakistan, being the ambassador of Kashmir, had exposed the real face of India globally.
“Pakistan always has strived to maintain friendly ties with the world which was also manifested in the prime minister’s maiden speech but it was construed as Pakistan’s weakness by India. Pakistan’s gesture of releasing captured Indian pilot in 2019 was also taken as weakness, he added.
The president asked India to end its atrocities in the India Illegally-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and abide by the UN resolutions. He assured the Kashmiris of Pakistan commitment to its stance on Kashmir and thanked China, Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan for supporting Pakistan’s on the issue.
Alvi told parliament that fascist ideology of RSS was a threat to regional peace. He added that India had also been involved in sponsoring terrorism in the region. Besides, the repeated incidents of uranium sale were deadly for regional security but unfortunately, the world media was keeping mum on it,” he said.
Alvi stressed the need for a political settlement in Afghanistan and opposed any military solution in the war-torn country. He lamented that after decades of war and the spending of trillions of dollars, peace could not be restored in Afghanistan.
The president termed the Taliban’s announcement of general amnesty encouraging and urged the world community not to leave the Afghan people in lurch, rather make efforts to avert humanitarian and economic crisis there.
Alvi emphasised that Pakistan had been playing humanitarian role in Afghanistan with its national flag-carrier, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) being at forefront in the evacuation of foreign diplomats and staff of international organisations after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban last month.
“The world should acknowledge that Pakistan’s stance on Afghanistan has proved correct,” President Arif Alvi told the joint session. He suggested the world to follow Prime Minister Imran Khan’s political acumen in other matters too.
Alvi described peace in Afghanistan as “a good omen for all the neighbouring countries. He also underscored the importance of regional fora like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for the promotion of regional linkages.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he added, 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.
The president expressed his confidence that the ill designs of certain elements in the region to harm the Pakistan-China ties were doomed to fail. “I want to remind India that the friendship bonds between Pakistan and China will grow further,” he said.
The president thanked all the brotherly Muslim countries particularly Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Iran, for supporting Pakistan.
The president mentioned increase in the country’s exports from $23.7 billion in 2019-20 to $25.3 billion in 2020-21; historic $29.4 billion remittances in last fiscal, vibrancy in stock market, improvement in ease of doing business and enhanced investors’ confidence as some of the government’s achievements.
With 18% growth in revenue collection to Rs4,732 billion in 2020-21, the president said, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had registered Rs160 billion increase revenue collection during the first two months of the current fiscal.
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“The enhanced revenue collection and remittances indicated confidence in the government’s policies,” he said. He also noted that Pakistan’s stock market got the distinction of being the best market in Asia and the fourth in the world, with a record sale of 2.21 billion shares in one session in May 2021.
He also said that Pakistan rose 28 points in the World Bank’s ease-of-doing-business ranking two years ago, while the country won the confidence of overseas investors through 60% increase in the Business Confidence Index (BCI) in the survey of Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Admitting that some cases of sexual crimes were reported from different parts of the country, he said the government had passed laws to protect rights of special persons and women as well as to eliminate sexual crimes.
On women rights, Alvi said the refusal of property rights to women still pervaded in some parts of the country, which was unfortunate for a Muslim country as Almighty Allah had guided the followers in details on the subject.
Considering the risks posed by global warming to Pakistan, President Alvi said hat Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the Billion Tree Tsunami in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and later the nationwide 10 Billion Tree Tsunami as well as Clean and Green Pakistan Programme to help steer the country out of the challenge.
The president asked the Pakistan nation to “never consider yourself as weak”. He mentioned that the nation on the basis of its intellect, developed nuclear deterrent within a period of seven years after India conducted her first nuclear tests in 1974.
“Pakistan very generously hosted 3.5 million to 4 million Afghan refugees on its soil for decades. The countries which have been championing for the cause of human rights even did not accept refugees and let them drown in the Mediterranean,” he said.
Knowing that the press gallery was empty, he called upon the media to meet its responsibility and work for the training of society, adding that everyone should work collectively to face the social, economic and security challenges.
During the presidential address to the parliament, the president also paid rich tributes to the sacrifices of the armed forces, law-enforcement agencies, civil forces and the nation, who had jointly defeated the scourge of terrorism.
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