ISLAMABAD - President Arif Alvi said Monday that the government secured achievements on various fronts specially economy, social and human development and foreign policy to take the country towards a prosperous and shining future.

Addressing the joint sitting of the Parliament at the Parliament House in Islamabad at the advent of 4th Parliamentary Year, he said that despite the negative impact of Covid-19, the country’s economy has been put on positive trajectory.

The opposition parties continued anti-government sloganeering and left the house later in protest. President Arif Alvi presented three years performance of the PTI’s government and urged opposition to not make Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) a ‘political football.’

“Don’t make EVM a political football, as country’s future dependent on it. It is imperative to introduce electoral reforms in the country,” said President Arif Alvi. 

With the start of President’s speech, the opposition members chanting anti-government slogans gathered around the Speaker’s podium to disrupt the proceedings. The opposition and some independent lawmakers carrying placards inscribed with anti-government slogans in the middle of the speech also left the house in protest. The parliamentary journalists were not allowed to enter the press gallery to watch and cover the joint sitting of the parliament. The protesting media persons also got registered their protest in front of Speaker office for not allowing them to enter in press gallery.

President calls for discouraging fake news

Don’t make EVM a political football, Alvi tells opponents

About electoral reforms, the president said, “The government is also taking steps to roll out I-voting systems to give overseas Pakistanis the right to vote, and I hope the Opposition will play its part in it.”

‘Better economic performance’

About economic challenges faced by the country in the last year, he said that world economies shrank due to the negative consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, but due to the government’s prudent policies, “Pakistan’s economic performance was better compared to other countries.”

 

He said that in the financial year 2021-21, Pakistan’s exports increased to $25.3 billion, while the Pakistan Stock Exchange “broke all past records and became Asia’s best-performing market and world’s fourth-best”. He said overseas investors had shown confidence in government policies and business confidence had increased by 60 per cent.

“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 the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force.

 

Recounting the government’s steps to uplift the masses, he said it had given a big construction package to people from the lower segments and the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme was started. “Not only has there been speed in financial activities but also opportunities for livelihood have been created,” he added.

He acknowledged the 2.77pc growth in the agriculture sector, and lauded a government initiative to provide skills training to youth under which he said 1.7 million youngsters had been provided opportunities.

He said a number of social protection measures introduced by the government under the umbrella of the Ehsaas programme, saying their highlight was that they focused on humans.

 

He further said 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.

‘Universal health coverage’

About the government’s efforts in the health sector, Alvi said “Pakistan is going towards universal health coverage,” adding that 18 million families were benefitting from the health cards so far.

Measures are also being taken to facilitate telemedicine, he said, urging the government to focus on this area. Noting that the burden on resources was increasing due to Pakistan’s growing population, the president highlighted the need to pay attention to population control and requested the government to increase funding in this regard.

“We need to make the family size small in accordance with Quranic verses ... We need to make this popular,” he said, urging media and scholars to help the government for the same.

‘Women protection’

Alvi said the government had paid “special attention” to the rights of women and special needs persons and new laws had been made as well.

“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, adding that while the government had taken measures to stop such violence, it was also the society’s responsibility to play its role. “Making videos while a [harassment] incident is taking place does not suit the Pakistani society, so it will have to protect women so they can wander freely.”

 

He also regretted that in some parts of the country, women were deprived of their inheritance rights despite the detailed instructions provided in the Holy Quran in this regard.

 

About education, he said under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the government has awarded as many as 240,000 scholarships, which was the “biggest package” awarded by the government so far.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has informed me that it has announced to waive off tuition and hostel fee for people with different abilities, the president said.

“We decided to provide technical training and education to people on such a large scale to push Pakistan forward because an educated person cannot only increase their personal income, but of the country as well,” he said.

 

About the laws the regime has introduced for people with disabilities and women, he said the government has enacted Disabilities Act 2020, Zainab Alert Act 2020, and Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020.

The government has introduced laws and worked at the administrative level to stop violence against women, which has increased in recent days, the president said.

“It is the duty of the society as well to keep a check on these things. Making videos and such incidents taking place does not suit the Pakistani society,” he said.

The president appealed to the people to make the country better for women. “Unfortunately, in some parts of the country, women are still denied their right to inheritance despite having clear instructions in the Shariah, and to counter that, the government has introduced a law.”

 

‘Spread of fake news’

The president highlighted that Pakistanis needed to counter fake news as these sorts of stories were the reason behind one country going to war with another — pointing at the United States’ invasion of Iraq.

 

The president while highlighted the need to discourage the trend of fake news, urged the nation to remain vigilant over the latest tendency. In his address to the joint session of the parliament, he referred to the Quranic verses, and urged the nation to seek guidance from these teachings and exercise caution over spread of the fake news.

The Islamic teachings stressed upon authentication of any news before its dissemination in a society, he added.

He observed that fake news could create chaos in a society, so restraint and extra caution should be exercised.

The president also called upon media to work for the training of young people as an important pillar of society.

‘Countering global warming’

About the effects of climate change, the president said PM Imran Khan had first launched the “Billion Tree Tsunami” initiative in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “When we came into power in the Centre, the government announced 10 Billion Tree Tsunami and Clean and Green Pakistan — which will help Pakistan counter the effects of global warming,” he said.

India sponsoring terrorists in Pakistan

‘Ethnic cleansing of Kashmiris’

He said India was committing major crimes, especially against Muslims, in occupied Kashmir and demanded the Modi-led government to stop its atrocities in the region.

“The prime minister called himself the ambassador of Kashmir and raised their plight at every international forum,” the president said, adding that Pakistan will always stand with the Kashmiris.

He said PM Imran Khan, in his inaugural speech, had assured Pakistan wanted good relations with India, but New Delhi has never responded in a positive manner. He thanked China, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran and other brotherly countries for backing Pakistan in its stance on the occupied territory.

The increasing sectarianism in India is a threat to the region, and the international community should acknowledge that, he said.

“India has been sponsoring terrorists in Pakistan for several years.”

The theft of uranium and its buying and selling in the open market in India is a dangerous event, which exposes the Indian administration’s incompetence, he said.

“Had such incidents taken place in any other country, the international media would have scrambled to cover it, but the same coverage was not given to the issue in India,” he said.

The president said India was resorting to “ethnic cleansing” of Kashmiris and meting out immense injustice to the people of occupied Kashmir.

He said Pakistan had always desired good relations with its neighbours, but India took this wish as a weakness. “In February 2019, India violated our air sovereignty so we gave a befitting response and shot down their plane and returned their pilot,” he recalled.

“I want to make clear to India to stop the oppression in India and fulfil the [Kashmiris’] promise of self-determination.”

He said, PM Imran Khan has “become a champion against Islamophobia” and has sought the international community’s support to counter the challenge.

‘Aid to Afghans’

Speaking about Afghanistan, he said PM Imran Khan had always stressed that there was no military solution to the Afghan war, and after 20 years, the result is before you.

“We have played an important role for peace in Afghanistan and want this new government to unite the Afghan people [...] they should ensure the Afghan land is not a threat to any neighbouring country,” he said.

 

The international community should start providing aid to the Afghans and not leave them alone in these times of despair as it would give birth to a humanitarian crisis, he said.

President Alvi lauded PM Imran Khan’s coronavirus smart lockdown policy. “The government did not shut down all businesses and relied on data [...] which was later acknowledged by the world.”

The president also applauded the media and ulema for playing their respective roles in curbing the spread of the virus.

The President was also appreciative for the steps taken by the government to meet the action plan of Financial Action Task Force (FATF).