President Alvi stresses on the need for dialogue; urges to end polarisation
ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi on Thursday insisted on the need to end polarisation in the country.
The president's co0mments came during his address to the Parliament's joint session to mark the beginning of the last parliamentary year of the current National Assembly.
“How will Pakistan stabilise, if every election is challenged,” he questioned, adding that polarisation should be addressed because this is the year of elections.
Amid the country’s growing political instability, President Alvi stressed the need for dialogue and urged to end polarisation.
“Polarisation doesn’t end with stubbornness,” he remarked.
Pointing at the need for unity reiterated by Quaid-e-Azam, President Alvi insisted that there should be unity among leaders.
“Unity is needed to end polarisation,” he said.
During his address, the president congratulated lawmakers for completing the fourth year in the national assembly and entering into the Parliament’s fifth year. The president also extended his wishes to Pakistan for completing 75 years of independence.
Commenting on the issue of audio tape leaks, the president said that he had never heard of audio and video leaks in his life.
“Investigation of audio leaks is a good step by the government,” he said.
“In Pakistan, free and fair elections remain in demand. We suggested Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to this Parliament to ensure transparency in the electoral process. The report was agreed upon, so work should be done to introduce EVMs,” the president remarked.
The president stressed that there is need to stop stalling work on electronic voting machines.
During his address, President Alvi insisted on granting voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.
“Overseas Pakistanis have the right to vote and they should be granted this right, as they work hard,” he said.
Speaking on the menace of corruption, the president said that corruption is within Pakistan and can be controlled.
The President insisted that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should be strengthened and be made apolitical.
The President said National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should be stopped from hounding people. "The bureau needs to be depoliticised immediately."
President Alvi also highlighted the nation’s most pressing issue — the catastrophic floods across provinces, which have claimed over 1,700 lives so far.
“I would like to congratulate Pakistan’s armed forces who helped the flood-hit population despite challenges. I would also like to extend my gratitude to provincial governments, the federal government, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for their efforts to help victims,” he said, adding that if the support was not extended on a timely basis, it would have caused more human and economic losses.
The president also pointed out the need for building dams given the situation of the recent floods in the country.
“The flood damaged our crops and Pakistan should pay attention to crop insurance, as it will help us get international aid and deal with the challenges,” the president said.
“Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy and to improve the sector, it is important that we look at nations which can provide us with technical support in this regard,” he said, adding that we must learn from a nation like the Netherlands which is 19% smaller than Pakistan but is the second biggest exporter of food in the world.
The president also spoke about the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on the world economy.
Speaking on Pakistan’s agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the president said: “We had a suitable agreement with the IMF."
He added that political stability was crucial amid sky-high inflation.
“Governments that put in hard work are deserving of being commended,” he said.
He talked about the state of education in the country and said that more than 20 million children are out of school.
Speaking about the state of education in the country, President Alvi emphasised the inclusion of out-of-school children.
“Members of Parliament must focus on this. I have spoken to ulema (clerics) that mosques should have sessions to provide school education. If you can’t provide education to children, impart some skills,” the president insisted.
He also underlined the significance of online education and to utilise it for instilling knowledge among the younger generation.
“There are good educational institutions that can help with this initiative,” the president remarked, as he stressed building a mechanism for the provision of employment to the masses.
The president also underscored the need for children to be prepared for the future by building their skills in the field of science and technology.
President Alvi said that even small countries of the world are way ahead of Pakistan when it comes to cyber power.
“Several smaller countries are ahead of Pakistan in cyber power, while our policies are weak in this respect,” he said.
The President said that the Kashmir issue should be resolved through UN resolutions. “We always stand with Kashmiris and will always do so,” he said.
He also commented on the state of regional peace and relations with neighbouring countries, saying that Pakistan wants peace in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan has been hosting Afghan refugees for three decades. We want a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, and it is better that a broad-based government establishes in the country,” he said.
The president added that Pakistan and China relations are exemplary and deep.
“Our friendship with China is real,” he said.
The president reminded the Parliament that Saudi Arabia, whenever needed, has always helped Pakistan and also said that relations with the US and Europe are beneficial for Pakistan.
“Media freedom is crucial for freedom of democracy,” he said, adding that the world is worried due to fake news.
The president said that shutting down social media causes financial damage.
“Wars are now being fought in the cyber world,” he said.
Commenting on the state of Islamophobia in India, the president said that the country was "playing with fire."
“The United Nations, Pakistan, and friendly nations worked [against] Islamophobia,” he said.
The president, while speaking on the state of the health sector in the country, said that our people are not rich enough to treat diseases.
“The country has at least nine per cent of patients suffering from hepatitis. We have controlled polio to an extent but there is a dearth of doctors and nurses. We need 700,000 nurses at the moment,” the president said, insisting on creating opportunities for telehealth, which can also help deal with mental health issues.
Nearly 24 percent of the people are chronically stressed, the president said. "Stress is a silent killer."
Celebrating nation's grit
He also lauded the nation for standing up against terrorism and spoke about Pakistan getting out of the Financial Action Task Force's (FATF) grey list.
“The way we tackled COVID-19 should also be praised. Our neighbours suffered huge damage due to COVID but we didn’t,” the president said.
The president lauded PTI's health card initiative, terming it a “good step”.
“Today, a woman can open an account while sitting at home,” he said, adding that society is safe and a way should be opened for women.
President Alvi was earlier slated to address the joint session on August 14, but the address was postponed following apprehensions of the coalition government.
President Alvi addressed the session with the hall nearly empty. There were only 15 lawmakers in the audience during the President's speech, which later reduced to 12. Undeterred by the scanty audience, the president pressed ahead with his address.
Some of the PTI defectors were also present in the hall. Speaker asked the members to take their seats. Balochistan Awami Party lawmakers were in attendance too, while those from the PML-N, PPP, and JUI-F boycotted the President's address without any warning.
On the other hand PTI's members of the Parliament said they boycotted the session because they did not believe in this assembly. Out of 422, only 14 lawmakers were in the hall during the President's address.
The president, under clause number 3 of Article 56, must address the Parliament after each general election and the first session of the parliamentary year to inform the lawmakers of the "causes of its summons".
This will be the shortest parliamentary year since it would consist of 310 days, given that the NA was not dissolved earlier.