Monday Sep 17, 2018
ISLAMABAD: In his maiden address to a joint session of the Parliament on Monday, President Dr Arif Alvi termed corruption and group interests as some of the major problems faced by Pakistan.
The joint session, co-chaired by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, was attended by members from both the houses of the parliament, including Prime Minister Imran Khan.
In the galleries, Azad Jammu and Kashmir president and prime minister, governors, chief ministers, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi and diplomats were present.
The president hoped that the upcoming days would be better for Pakistan. “I am grateful to have the biggest constitutional designation. I will perform to the best of my abilities. I pray to Allah for strength and hope fellow parliamentarians will support me.”
Commenting on the continuation of parliamentary democracy, Alvi said, “Pakistan’s parliamentary system has been a victim of instability due to various reasons. However, the fact that the past three governments have been able to complete their terms is encouraging.”
He urged the political leadership to stand united and make concerted efforts to strengthen the accountability system, counter corruption and address the serious economic challenges by enforcing austerity and playing their part in providing social justice, health and education to the masses.
The president stressed that the main cause of issues in Pakistan was extreme corruption and group interests. "Elections proved that people are fed up with dishonesty and want a clean society."
President Alvi said a free and fair system was necessary for overcoming corruption along with strengthening institutions of accountability so they can perform their duties without fear.
He added that the government had shown the desire to make Naya Pakistan and had won the election on this slogan. "In my opinion, the biggest part of Naya Pakistan should be adopting simplicity, elimination of unnecessary protocol and a system free from corruption."
President Alvi further said that instead of spending on development projects, Pakistan had to take loans to pay off its debt. "According to the law, the loan to GDP ratio should not be more that 60 per cent. However, for the past several years, we have been breaking our own law."
He warned of the dangers Pakistan was facing due to internal and external loans.
According to the president, Pakistan would overcome challenges as we were a nation which was brave and determined. “Even overseas Pakistanis are full of determination to put the country on the right track.”
He highlighted the water crisis in the country, stressing on the need to construct dams. “Balochistan and Sindh are facing drought and global climate change is impacting Pakistan severely,” President Alvi said, adding that population was adversely impacting the environment and focus was also needed on tree plantation.
Speaking on the energy crisis, the president said this could be helped by overcoming electricity theft and line losses along with increasing the means of power generation.
The president spoke on the need to improve the standard of education and empowering women. “Nations cannot succeed without women empowerment. Our women are powerful and hardworking.”
The president said Pakistan was facing gigantic challenges, both at the domestic and international fronts and the biggest was a very weak economy. The country had been spending a major share of its resources on debt repayment.
“The balance of trade is also unfavourable. There is a huge gap in the quantum of our imports and exports. The circular debt has increased to Rs1,100 billion over the past few years and the value of rupee has depreciated sharply in recent months.”
The president said it should be a top priority for the government to resolve the economic crisis being faced by the country. He spoke of industries being shut down and unemployment is at its peak. The president added that inflation had increased in the country owing to an increase in the cost of the dollar, while circular debt was more than Rs1,100 billion.
“I want the government to reduce financial losses and made investment opportunities more feasible.”
Commenting on foreign relations, the president said a new phase had begun. “The new government supports CPEC due to its economic gains and for better Pak-China ties. Serious pacts will also be considered with Central Asia for the economy. Pakistan places special importance on ties with Russia and Turkey for regional stability.”
The president stressed that Pakistan wanted peaceful relations with India. “We want a peaceful solution to Kashmir issues and will continue efforts for this. Kashmiri’s have a right to self-determination and I urge the international community to help.”
The legislators belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and allies staged a walkout from the joint sitting on Monday.
Soon after recitation from the Holy Quran and Naat-e-Rasool-e-Maqbool (PBUH), the PML-N lawmakers stood up on their seats and sought permission of the chair to speak on a point of order.
Speaker Asad Qaisar, who was chairing the session, did not allow them to do so, citing rules of business as the only agenda of the day was the president's address to the joint sitting.
The opposition members then walked out of the House in protest.
Earlier, the session was scheduled to be held on September 13 but was postponed until September 17 due to the death of former first lady Kulsoom Nawaz.
According to constitutional provisions, the president has to address a joint session of the Parliament at the beginning of the first session of the National Assembly after a general election as well as the first sitting of the assembly in every parliamentary year.
Special passes were issued for the occasion. All entry and exit points were strictly monitored and unauthorised vehicles were not allowed to enter the federal capital without a thorough search.
Rangers officials along with police were deployed to ensure foolproof security on the occasion.