President Dr Arif Alvi addressed a joint sitting of parliament on Monday, marking the start of the fourth parliamentary year of the National Assembly amid chaos outside parliament.
The President of Pakistan congratulated the members of parliament at the start of the new legislative year and expressed hope that democratic values and the “tradition of tolerance” flourish in Pakistan.
Amid loud protests by the Opposition, President Alvi said: “Despite you making noise, you will have to accept the reality.”
Dr Alvi briefly discussed the country’s progress and shed light on various topics.
Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)
President Alvi stressed the need to introduce electoral reforms in order to bring transparency to elections in Pakistan.
Financial Action Task Force (FATF)
“People paying tax in such large numbers shows complete trust in government policies,” Alvi said, congratulating the government for devising and implementing laws and procedures to address FATF requirements.
Sexual harassment cases
Alvi said the government had paid “special attention” to the rights of women.
“In recent days, incidents of sexual violence against women emerged due to which everyone is sad and I think it is a national responsibility to take steps to curb such incidents,” he said.
President Alvi added that the government had taken measures to stop such violence and it was also society’s responsibility to play its role. “Making videos while an [harassment] incident is taking place does not suit the Pakistani society, so it will have to protect women so they can wander freely.”
Because of corruption and wrong priorities, we were not only deprived of progress but also left behind in the world in human development indicators,” Alvi said.
He said that “18 million families were benefitting from the health cards so far”.
“Pakistan is going towards universal health coverage, he added while praising the government’s efforts,” he concluded.
Kamyab Jawan Programme
The President noted that the government had set aside Rs260bn through which 12 million families will be given cash income, while Rs100bn had been earmarked for the Kamyab Jawan Programme to give loans to the youth to start businesses.
During his address, the Opposition kept booing and at last walked out of the session.
The Opposition also accused the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and National Assembly (NA) Speaker Asad Qaiser of violating the Constitution by not allowing a debate on the presidential address throughout the third parliamentary year, which ended on August 13.
Politicians including Shehbaz sharif Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Sherry Rehman, Mian Raza Rabbani and Ahsan Iqbal joined the protest and showed solidarity with the journalists.
“Thanks to all friends and well-wishers who were sending messages of solidarity the whole night whole day, we just finished a 24 hours protest camp in front of the parliament against threats to media and new proposed law for legalising censorship in Pakistan,” Hamid Mir tweeted, mentioning the end of the protest.
President Alvi did not mention the journalists’ protest against the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA).