With the opposition and coalition government consistently fighting against one another, quite a few parliamentary norms, traditions and practices have been sidelined unduly this past year. With August 14 just having passed, it is now time for the yearly address of the President to a joint sitting of parliament, and it is hoped that this particular tradition is followed through upon.

The next joint sitting for parliament is scheduled for September 22, but the speaker has not invited the President to speak at this session. The draft for the President’s speech has already been prepared by his staff, which is why it should not be too much of a problem for National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to extend an invitation to the head of state for September 22 if needed. However, a special session could also be scheduled.

The importance of the President’s address in terms of observing parliamentary norms is certainly significant. The tussle between the opposition and the now coalition government has often brought up the President’s role, the non-partisan role of this position and what it represents. The coalition should set up a session where the President can deliver his address considering that there is a need to move beyond the controversy and work towards navigating the country through the many issues that beset us. There is a need to move beyond domestic political issues, and both the government and President can come together and show the way to political actors through this address.

With less than a year before this term ends, there are a plethora of issues to resolve, and natural disasters such as the current floods have only added to the many exigent crises we currently have to work through. Everyone must work together and this precedent must start between the head of state and the government. One address on its own does not do much, but in a year where political polarisation has peaked, it is important to stand by the little traditions and at least stand together when norms demand it.