Zardari calls for political reset, reconciliation

Amid opposition protest in joint session, President urges turning challenges into opportunities

Rizwan Shehzad April 18, 2024
President Asif Ali Zardari addressing a joint session of Parliament on April 18, 2024 in Islamabad. PHOTO: X/@NAofPakistan


President Asif Zardari, while calling for resetting the political atmosphere and reconciliation in the country, urged all the stakeholders on Thursday to take a step back and decide what mattered the most, stressing that challenges could be turned into opportunities with collective efforts.

Addressing the joint parliamentary session to mark the beginning of the new parliamentary year, Zardari shared his vision for the future; envisaging inclusive growth; moving away from polarisation; banishing terrorism; and turning a new page without wasting any time for a new beginning.

The president hoped the political leadership, public institutions, civil society, and youth would successfully overcome the multiple challenges “facing our nation today”, saying: “We can effectively tackle our challenges and foster an atmosphere of mutual respect and political reconciliation.”

The president’s call for resetting the political atmosphere came as the government remained embroiled in economic and security challenges as well as facing rigging allegations from the opposition parties, who had recently kicked off a protest movement against Shehbaz Sharif-led coalition government.

The schism was evident as the start of the first year of the current parliament wasn’t a smooth one. Opposition parties kept protesting and shouting slogans when the president came to address the joint session. In response, the president kept on smiling with frequent intervals.

“I believe we can reset political atmosphere to reflect more light than heat if we really want to,” Zardari, who is serving as the head of the state for a second time, said. “But it will need all of us to step back and decide what matters the most, and I mean all of us,” he added.

At the end of the day, he said, “it is up to all of us to turn challenges into opportunities, because that is what robust nations do.” He added: “It is time to turn a new page… we have little time to waste. The country needs us to move on from the polarization to common now, to contemporary politics.”

While sharing briefly his vision for the future, he emphasized that much of it was based on “the choices we” make. “I see my role today as a unifying symbol of a joint, robust federation, where all people and provinces should be treated as equal before the law,” he said.

Zardari called for a new beginning and building on strengths by investing in people, focusing on public needs, and harnessing resources to create pathways to inclusive growth. He stressed the need to rebuild public confidence in the parliamentary system.

However, in the same vein, he made one thing clear: “Let us not confuse constructive disagreement and the healthy noise of a growing democracy with the pursuit of zero-sum thinking.” The country, he said, “needs us to take pause and reflect on what we prioritize in our goals, our narratives, and our agendas”.

Expressing that the challenges being faced were not impossible to overcome, he said that they just required the fundamentals of meaningful dialogue, parliamentary consensus, and a time-lined implementation of rigorous reforms, aimed at addressing the underlying issues, both old and new. “Let’s begin with a vision that strives to leave no one behind,” he said.

He underscored the importance of promoting positive working relationships and effective coordination, within the Constitutional framework, between the federal government and the provinces, adding this was absolutely essential to promote an inclusive national development agenda and rolling out policies that executed tangible action on the ground.

Economy & climate

President Zardari said that Pakistan needed all hands on deck to revitalize its economy. Without shedding all caution to the winds, he added, the primary objective should be to attract foreign direct investment (FDI).

The president urged the government to intensify its efforts to implement comprehensive ease-of-doing-business reforms and simplify the existing forest of regulations in order to provide an enabling environment for both foreign and domestic investors.

At the same time, he said that “we must accelerate our endeavors to diversify exports, enhance the competitiveness of our products” in the global markets, introduce value-addition, and venture into new markets.

Similarly, the president continued, that the huge, untapped potential in the agriculture, marine life, information technology, and textile sectors should be exploited to earn foreign exchange.

Sharing that the “world is changing fast under our very feet”, the president said that the country urgently needed to invest in climate-friendly and climate-resilient infrastructure to mitigate the rapidly compounding risks of climate change.

At the same time, he said, Pakistan needed to ensure that clean energy technologies form the “core component of our national energy mix” as they would not only create opportunities for green economic growth but would also make energy more affordable for the people.

Education & Health

President Zardari emphasized that the provision of primary and secondary education was a fundamental right of the people. However, he regretted the poor state of this sector. “Its current state should keep all governments awake at night,” Zardari said.

Referring to a massive number of out-of-school children, he urged all provincial governments to bring focus and energy to transformative reforms in the education sector, not just on improving access to primary and secondary education for all children, but for ensuring quality education as well.

Similarly, the president pointed out that the health sector was also in urgent need of rebuilding and scaled-up expansion. He said that it was needed to ensure that every citizen had access to quality healthcare services and that no citizen lacked medical care.

Social sector

The president said that a combination of factors had come together to create a crisis of income and food insecurity for many people. Referring to the large number of the population slipping into poverty, he warned: “It is our responsibility to ensure that they move out of extreme vulnerability.”

The president revealed that the beneficiaries of the poverty alleviation program, the Benazir Income Support Programme, had risen to over 9 million but added that more underprivileged women needed to be brought into the social safety net.

Zardari said he hoped that the new government would actively work to reduce social and economic fragility while aggressively promoting girls’ education and health, including programs to reduce maternal mortality and enhance mother and child nutrition.


In his speech, the president warned that the menace of terrorism was again rearing its ugly head and threatening the nation’s security as well as regional peace and prosperity but affirmed the resolve that the country would be purged of this scourge.

He said that he expected neighboring countries to take strong notice of terrorist groups, which were involved in launching attacks against the Pakistani forces and the people. “I reaffirm the nation’s resolve to eliminate terrorist elements,” Zardari said.

He recalled that his late wife, the twice-elected prime minister of Pakistan, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed, gave her life standing up to terrorists. “So you will never find me wanting in building the unity and momentum behind such an effort [against terrorism].”

The president said that the nation was proud of the armed forces and law-enforcement agencies, who had rendered immense sacrifices and played a heroic role in the fight against terrorism and the defense of the national frontiers.

Friendly countries

The president thanked the friendly countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkiye, and Qatar, which always supported Pakistan in difficult times. He extended heartfelt gratitude to China for its unwavering support to Pakistan in various fields.

It was also important, he continued, to recognize that the United States, European Union, and the United Kingdom had all been established trade partners, with a history of cooperation in many sectors, which we hope will grow.

“The enduring strategic and all-weather friendship between Pakistan and China is a cornerstone of stability in the region,” the president said, adding that Pakistan would remain steadfast in its commitment to collaborating with China to advance the shared goals of fostering peace and prosperity.

He vowed to complete the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “We will not allow hostile elements to jeopardize this vital project or undermine the strong bond between our two nations and will take all necessary measures to ensure the security of our Chinese brothers and sisters.”

Kashmir & Palestine

Zardari reminded the world of the unsung sacrifices of the Kashmiri people in their ongoing struggle for the freedom of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). He stressed that durable peace in South Asia was the resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions.

“Revocation of Articles 370 and 35A [of the Indian constitution] is part of India’s strategy to reduce the Kashmiri Muslims to a minority in their own homeland,” he said. “Pakistan rejects the one-sided Indian actions and calls upon India to reverse all illegal measures taken on or after 5 August 2019.”

The president assured the Kashmiri brothers and sisters that Pakistan would continue to provide moral, political, and diplomatic support to the people of occupied Kashmir until they achieve their right to self-determination.

Similarly, the president said that he was deeply concerned over “the tidal wave of indiscriminate killings of innocent Palestinians and large-scale genocide committed by the Israeli forces.” He said Pakistan strongly condemns the brutality and impunity of the occupation forces.

He reiterated that Pakistan remained steadfast in its principled support for the establishment of an independent and viable state of Palestine, based on the pre-1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

In conclusion, Zardari said that he had complete faith in the capability of the political leadership, public institutions, civil society, and youth, to successfully overcome the multiple challenges facing the nation today.

Sharing that he had an unshakeable belief in the resilience of the people, the president said, he believed that the nation could pull together to draw on the moral and political capital in steering the country out of its complex but not impossible, social, climate and economic challenges.

Calling for a renewed political ethos of collaboration and consensus-building, President Zardari said that he was certain that “together, in a fresh start, we can chart a course towards a strong and prosperous Pakistan”.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ