President Dr Arif Alvi 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 addressing the joint session of parliament.
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.
The PML-N, the JUI-F, the PTI and other parties on Thursday boycotted the speech in an unannounced manner.
Of the 442 lawmakers of both the upper and lower houses, only 14 were present during the president’s speech.
In his speech, the president stressed the importance of strengthening the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
“But at the same time we have to ensure that it [NAB] must not be used as a political tool for victimisation,” he added.
The president said the country had not taken enough measures to end the menace of corruption.
Without referring to the NAB amendments, the president said the onus of explaining sources of wealth were on the accused.
President Alvi called upon political parties to sit together and take steps to end the atmosphere of polarisation in the country.
He added that only free and fair elections could bring stability to the country.
“There is an urgent need for ending political polarisation in the country. Politicians should sit together and take steps to end polarisation,” he remarked.
Alvi also emphasised the need for using electronic voting machines (EVMs) to ensure transparency in the elections.
“How will stability come when a losing party or candidate hurls rigging allegations? Progress should be made on this matter [EVMs] instead of lingering it on,” he said.
Highlighting the importance of remittances, President Alvi called for giving overseas Pakistanis the right to vote through EVMs.
He urged political parties to hold a dialogue to decide the election date. “If there is a difference of only a few months then [all parties] should sit together and decide the election date," he added.
The president said he could only give his opinion to his “friends” on the matter of holding elections, emphasising that ending the polarisation was the need of the hour.
Speaking about foreign policy, President Alvi appreciated the government’s efforts to improve ties with US and European countries.
“Pakistan-America ties are improving and they will continue to improve. We should maintain ties on the basis of mutual understanding. I appreciate the government’s efforts in this regard,” he said.
Maintaining ties with the West, the president added, was vital for the country’s economy as Pakistan’s top export destinations were the US and Europe.
Alvi noted that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was a testament to strong ties between the two countries.
He also thanked Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for extending economic support to Pakistan, saying both countries had always helped Islamabad during difficult times.
He went on to say that Pakistan wanted peace in Afghanistan.
He hoped that the interim Taliban government would fulfil its international obligations and would not let its territory be used against any country.
“We hope that there should be no mutual interference in the internal matters,” he added.
The president termed the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ‘appropriate’, saying that the deal enabled the country to avail funding from other global lenders.
He also emphasised the need for long-term economic policies.
He said policy continuation was essential to maintain economic stability and build investors’ confidence.
“Policies should continue despite the change of government to protect foreign investment,” he added.
He expressed the hope that the dollar-rupee parity would be brought under control.
Alvi stressed the need for the construction of dams to avert devastating floods in the country, saying this would also help store water for use in difficult times.
He appreciated the federal and provincial governments, National Disaster Management Authority, Provincial Disaster Management Authorities and armed forces for their timely response to the flood relief activities.
He expressed satisfaction over the international focus on the floods in Pakistan, saying the UN secretary general had visited the country to see the ground situation.
Referring to the disaster inflicted by floods on the agricultural sector, the president suggested a crop insurance scheme for farmers to compensate for their losses.
The president said special focus should be given to bring improvement in the health and education sectors.
Alvi stressed on the importance of improving the country’s cyber policies, particularly for the security of important institutions.
The president was appreciative of the initiative taken by the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) to deal with the issue of malnutrition.
Alvi lauded the efforts of the authorities, which dealt with the Covid-19 outbreak.
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