22 May | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

MPs asked to ‘repair’ public confidence in parliamentary process

Asif Zardari addresses parliament’s joint session; shares his role as unifying symbol of robust federation; calls for meaningful dialogue, political reconciliation

Stressing for turning a new page and making a fresh start, President Asif Ali Zardari called for a meaningful dialogue, parliamentary consensus and fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect and political reconciliation to do away with polarization and overcome challenges.

Addressing the joint session of the parliament in Islamabad, he shared his role as a unifying symbol of a robust federation, where all people and provinces should be treated as equal before the law. As a new beginning, he said that Pakistan needed to build its strengths by investing in people, focusing on public needs, and harnessing its resources to create pathways to inclusive growth.

President calls for resetting political atmosphere with more light than heat

Chaired by National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, the joint sitting was attended by members of Senate and the National Assembly, while in the galleries were provincial chief ministers and legislators, diplomats, and representatives from political parties. The president’s address was in pursuance of Article 56 (3) of the constitution which marked the beginning of the first parliamentary year, following the general elections.

The address encompassed major national and international matters, and challenges from economy, poverty, social welfare, women empowerment and foreign policy to Kashmir and Palestine as well as climate change. He sought the role of two Houses of the parliament in rebuilding public confidence in the parliamentary process. Calling for resetting political atmosphere with more light than heat, he emphasized reforms to promote good governance and turn challenges into opportunities.

By embracing visions of great leaders Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, former prime ministers Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and Benazir Bhutto, he said that they can effectively tackle challenges and foster an atmosphere of mutual respect and political reconciliation. In order to align the motherland with the twenty-first century requirements, he said that it was imperative to move forward on reforms with good governance for the provision of optimal social entitlements to the citizens.

Besides working on economic reforms, spurring jobs, reducing inflation and expanding the tax net, the president asked the federal government to promote working relationship, and coordination with the provinces. “This is absolutely essential for promoting an inclusive development agenda and rolling out policies that execute tangible action on the ground.” He also asked the government to intensify its efforts for attracting foreign direct investment, implementing ease-of-doing-business reforms and simplifying the existing regulations to provide an enabling environment to investors.

President asks center to promote positive working relationships, effective coordination with provinces

At the same time, he also emphasized to diversify exports, enhance the competitiveness of domestic products in global markets, introduce value addition, and venture into new international markets. Similarly, the huge untapped potential in the agriculture, marine life, information technology and textile sectors should also be exploited to earn foreign exchange, he said. Commending the establishment of the Special Investment Facilitation Council, he said it was a step forward in the right direction to attract and facilitate investments in key sectors.

As regards climate change impacts, the president said Pakistan had been serially devastated by different impacts of climate change, especially in the shape of catastrophic floods. “We urgently need to invest in climate-friendly and climate-resilient infrastructure to mitigate the rapidly compounding risks of climate change.” Speaking about primary and secondary education, he pointed out that as a massive number of children were out of school, all the provincial governments should focus their energy on transformative reforms in the education sector.

He highlighted the urgent need of rebuilding and scaled-up expansion in the health sector, saying regular investments in the primary and secondary health infrastructure, as well as human resources, were needed to ensure that every citizen had access to quality healthcare services and that no one lacked medical care. He expressed the hope that the government would actively work to reduce social and economic fragility while promoting girls’ education and health, including programs to reduce maternal mortality and enhance mother and child nutrition.

President says Pakistan urgently needs to invest in climate-friendly and climate-resilient infrastructure

Highlighting the Kashmir issue, the president reminded the world of the unsung sacrifices of Kashmiri people in their ongoing struggle for the freedom of the occupied territories. He said the revocation of Articles 370 and 35A was part of India’s strategy to reduce Muslims to a minority in their own homeland, and called upon New Delhi to reverse all illegal measures taken on or after August 05, 2019. “Pakistan will continue to provide moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people until they get their right to self-determination,” he said.

He termed the implementation of the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions a key to durable peace in South Asia. He expressed deep concerns over the tidal wave of indiscriminate killings of innocent Palestinians and genocide committed by the Israeli forces in Middle East. He reiterated Pakistan’s condemnation of the brutality and impunity of the occupation forces and commitment to its principled support for the establishment of an independent and viable Palestine state, based on the pre-1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

Referring to the resurge of terrorism and its threats to the nation’s security as well as regional peace and prosperity, he called the menace a shared concern that required collective efforts. He urged the neighboring countries to take strong notice of terror groups involved in launching attacks against Pakistan’s security forces and people. Coming to foreign policy, he thanked the friendly countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, China, Turkiye, and Qatar for supporting Pakistan in difficult times.

President urges neighbors to take strong notice of terror groups for launching attacks against Pakistanis

He recognized the United States, European Union and United Kingdom having a history of cooperation with Pakistan in many sectors and hoped to grow that further. He particularly expressed gratitude to China for its unwavering support to Pakistan in various fields, and reiterated the country’s steadfast commitment to collaborating with it to advance shared goals of fostering regional peace, promoting connectivity, and stability, including completion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. “We will not allow hostile elements to jeopardize this vital project,” he said.

Asif Zardari said that he drew inspiration from Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and Benazir Bhutto, who spent their lives being advocates for democracy, tolerance, and social justice. “I am certain that together – in a fresh start – we can chart a course towards a strong and prosperous Pakistan,” he said while expressing his complete faith in political leadership, public institutions, civil society and youth.