The opposition staged a walkout after making ruckus when President Arif Alvi started addressing the joint session of parliament on Monday afternoon.
Members of the opposition raised slogans and gathered in front of the speaker’s dice. They held placards denouncing proposed curbs under the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA).
As the opposition raised noise, President Alvi had to stop his address. He took water twice.
Later, the opposition and independent members walked out of the hall.
The president started his address by congratulating the parliamentarians on successfully completing three years, and starting the fourth parliamentary year.
“During the past three years, Pakistan achieved many milestones, both on internal and external fronts,” he added.
“Despite coronavirus, Pakistan’s economy performed better as compared to other countries due to the government’s prudent policies,” said the president.
At this, the opposition members began thumping benches and started a ruckus, at which the president said: “You can make all the noise you want, but you have to accept the reality that the country is moving forward.”
The president mentioned that the country’s growth rate reached 3.94 percent in 2020-21, exports increased from $23.7 billion to $25.3 billion, and remittances reached a record $19.4 billion which was $6 billion more as compared to the last year.
President Alvi said the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) performed excellently and broke all records, and became the fourth-best stock market globally.
Citing a survey of the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the president said foreign investors’ trust in the government had increased.
The president said the increase in remittances and the boost in foreign investment showed that people trusted the incumbent government.
President Alvi lauded the government for following up on all of the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) recommendations and enacting laws to meet the requirements.
He mentioned that as many as 1.7 million youth benefitted through the government’s “digiskills” programme.
He said the Pakistani freelancers have earned $2 million in foreign exchange.
“The government is well aware of the ever-changing needs of the industry. Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, software development, data analysis, and other technologies will help us grow faster,” he added.
Talking about cyber security, President Alvi said Pakistani youth can play a crucial role in making the country’s cyber defence impregnable.
He said the past governments did not focus on human development as a result of which governance became weak, and Pakistan had to face “brain drain”.
The president said the government believed that an educated and healthy Pakistan could move forward, and for that, the PTI-led government introduced the Ehsaas programme.
“Ehsaas Nashunuma for malnutrition, Waseela-e-Taleem, Ehsaas Kafalat, Ehsaas Scholarship, Ehsaas Emergency Cash, Ehsaas Amdan, Ehsaas Langars, and Ehsaas Koi Bhooka Na Soye are working on human development,” he said.
Talking about education, President Alvi said under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the government awarded 240,000 scholarships.
“The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has informed me that it has announced waiver of tuition and hostel fee for people with different abilities,” the president said.
Highlighting the laws introduced for the people with different abilities and women, he said that 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 the violence against women, which has increased in recent days, he added.
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 inheritance, and to counter that, the government has introduced a law.”
About the climate change, the president said Prime Minister Imran had first launched the “Billion Tree Tsunami” initiative in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“When we came into power, the government announced 10 Billion Tree Tsunami and Clean and Green Pakistan which will help counter the effects of global warming on the country,” he continued.
The president said it was imperative to introduce electoral reforms in the country, and through electronic voting machines, transparency and in time announcement of results can be ensured.
President Alvi urged the opposition to not politicise EVM as the country’s future depended on it.
“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 positive part in it.”
The president mentioned that India was committing crimes, especially against Muslims, in Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and demanded the Modi-led government to stop atrocities in the region.
“Prime Minister Imran called himself the ambassador of Kashmir and raised their plight at every international forum,” the president said, adding that Pakistan will always stand by the Kashmiri brethren.
The president said PM Imran Khan, in his inaugural speech, had assured Pakistan wanted good relations with India, but New Delhi never responded in a positive manner.
President Alvi thanked China, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and other brotherly countries for backing Pakistan on the issue of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
The rise in sectarianism in India is a threat to the region, and the international community should acknowledge that.
“India has been sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan for several years,” the president added.
The theft of uranium and its buying and selling in the open market is a dangerous development, 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 expose it, but the same coverage was not given to the issue in India,” he said.
Prime Minister Imran has “become a champion against Islamophobia” and has sought the international community’s support to counter the challenge.
President Alvi said the prime minister 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 country,” he said.
The international community should start providing aid to the Afghans and not leave them alone in the time of despair as it would give birth to a humanitarian crisis, he said.
Pakistan is giving special attention to geo-economics and regional connectivity and aspires to connect the region’s economies through China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The president said Pakistan had been hosting around four million Afghan refugees for the last four decades and asked the world to not teach us humanitarianism.
President Alvi lauded PM Imran Khan’s coronavirus smart lockdown policy. “The government did not shut down businesses and relied on data […] which was later acknowledged by the world.”
The president also praised the media and ulema for playing their respective roles in curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, governors and chief ministers of the four provinces attended the joint session of parliament.
President of Azad Kashmir Sultan Mahmood, services chiefs and ambassadors of different countries were also present in the gallery of guests.
Journalists were barred from entering the press gallery of the parliament before the commencement of the session. In response, the Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA) members staged a protest inside gate No 1 of the Parliament House.
Later, gate passes were issued to selected journalists.