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Friday, May 31, 2024  
22 Dhul-Qadah 1445  

Pakistan needs leaders to move on from polarisation to politics, Zardari tells MPs

Oppositions protested as the president address joint Parliamentary session
President Asif Zardari speech - National assembly joint session - Aaj News

In his address to the joint Parliamentary session on Thursday, President Asif Ali Zardari said that the country needed its leaders to move on from the polarisation to the contemporary politics.

“This joint House must play a leading role in rebuilding public confidence in the parliamentary process and establish a foundation for the uninterrupted sustained development of our nation,” he told lawmakers in the House.

When National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq announced the president’s name for the address, lawmakers belonging to the Sunni Ittehad Council, which is home to elected PTI members, chanted slogans for former prime minister Imran Khan’s release.

Supporters of the PPP also chanted slogans in favour of the president in counter to the opposition members.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, Zardari’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and daughter Aseefa, who was recently sworn in as an MNA, are also in attendance.

The president congratulated the federal government, provincial governments, and lawmakers on the assumption of their offices. He also thanked the lawmakers for electing him the president for the second time.

“Let us not confuse constructive disagreement and the healthy noise of a growing democracy with the pursuit of zero-sum thinking,” Zardari stated.

“The country needs us to take pause and reflect on what we prioritise in our goals, narratives and agendas,” the president said, adding that he believed that the leaders could “lift the political atmosphere to reflect more light than heat”.

He expressed hope that parliamentarians would use those powers with the “wisdom and maturity” the country merits and needs.

“I see my own role today as a unifying symbol of a joint, robust federation, where all people and provinces should be treated as equal before the law,” he said, “at the same time, in my considered view, it is time to turn a new page.”

Investing in people

He called for building on strengths by investing in the people, by focusing on public needs, and by harnessing the resources to create pathways to inclusive growth.

The second-time president highlighted that the country has little time to waste.

He believed the leaders could reset the political atmosphere to “reflect more light than heat” if they really wanted to. But it would need everyone to step back and decide what matters the most, he added.

Zardari went on to add that it was up to lawmakers to turn challenges into opportunities, “because that is what robust nations do.”

Zardari, who is also the PPP co-chairman, said that he has always drawn inspiration and guidance from great leaders such as Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, who spent their lives being advocates for democracy, tolerance, and social justice.

“I firmly believe that by embracing the vision of these leaders, we can effectively tackle our challenges and foster an atmosphere of mutual respect and political reconciliation.”

Zardari was of the view that challenges being faced by the country were not impossible to overcome. “They just require dialogue, parliamentary consensus and a timeline of implementation of rigorous reforms aimed at addressing the underlying issues, both old and new, confronting us.”

While stressing the need for moving forward with reforms to promote good governance, he said: “Let’s begin with a vision that strives to leave no one behind, the political leadership gathering in this house must prioritise the needs of communities in underdeveloped areas.”

He was of the view that focusing on underdeveloped areas would bridge the gap between them and the more developed areas of the country.

While speaking about the outcome of economic reforms, he underscored the importance of promoting positive working relationships and effective coordination, within the Constitutional framework, between the federal government and the provinces.

“This is absolutely essential for promoting an inclusive national development agenda and rolling out policies that execute tangible action on the ground.”

‘All hands on deck to revitalise economy’

Pakistan needed all hands on deck to revitalise its economy, Zardari said and added that without shedding all caution to the winds, the primary objective should be to attract foreign direct investment.

“I, therefore, urge the government to intensify its efforts in implementing comprehensive ease-of-doing-business reforms and simplifying the existing forest of regulations to provide an enabling environment for both foreign and domestic investors.”

He commended the establishment of the Special Investment Facilitation Council aimed at attracting and facilitating investments in key sectors.

Zardari further called for diversifying exports, enhancing the competitiveness of products in global markets, introducing value addition, and venturing into new markets. He stressed the need for exploring the untapped potential in the agriculture, marine life, information technology and textile sectors to earn foreign exchange.

The president also mentioned that the country needed to invest in climate-friendly and climate-resilient infrastructure to mitigate the rapidly compounding risks of climate change.

“At the same time, we need to ensure that clean energy technologies form the core component of our national energy mix as they would not only create opportunities for green economic growth but would also make energy more affordable for our people.”

Education, health

The provision of primary and secondary education should keep all governments awake at night, the president said and urged all provincial governments to bring focus and energy on transformative reforms in the education sector.

“I am sure you all agree that our health sector is in urgent need of rebuilding and scaled-up expansion.”

He called for regular investments in the primary and secondary health infrastructure, as well as human resources, to ensure that every citizen has access to quality healthcare services and that no citizen lacks medical care.

“A combination of factors has come together to create what I see as a crisis of income and food insecurity for many of our people. I am pointing of course, to the large number of our population that has been slipping into poverty, either through climate impacts on their incomes and assets, or sheer cost-of-living pressures on their families. It is our responsibility to ensure that they move out of extreme vulnerability, with the ability to access opportunities for jobs, and resources to reinvest in farms, livestock and small businesses.”

Terrorism

He said that the menace of terrorism was again rearing its ugly head and threatening the nation’s security as well as regional peace and prosperity.

“Pakistan believes that terrorism is a shared concern that requires collective efforts,” he said and added that the country expected neighbouring countries to take strong notice of terrorist groups who were involved in launching attacks against the security forces and people.

“Today, I reaffirm the nation’s resolve to eliminate terrorist elements. My late wife, the twice-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed, gave her life standing up to terrorists, so you will never find me wanting in building the unity and momentum behind such an effort.”

He paid tribute to the armed forces and law enforcement agencies who have rendered sacrifices and played a role in the fight against terrorism and defence of the national frontiers.

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The president thanked Saudi Arabia, UAE, China, Turkiye, and Qatar for supporting Pakistan in difficult times.

“It is important also to recognise that the US, EU and UK have all been established trade partners, with a history of cooperation in many sectors, which we hope will grow further.”

Before concluding his speech, the president reminded the world of the sacrifices of Kashmiri brethren in their ongoing struggle for the freedom of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir.

“The revocation of Articles 370 and 35A is part of India’s strategy to reduce Kashmiri Muslims to a minority in their own homeland. Pakistan rejects the one-sided Indian actions and calls upon India to reverse all illegal measures taken on or after 5 August 2019.”

He added that Pakistan believed that the key to durable peace in South Asia was the resolution of the dispute in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

Zardari addd that the country was concerned over indiscriminate killings of Palestinians and large-scale genocide committed by the Israeli forces.

“I have complete faith in the capability of our political leadership, public institutions, civil society and youth, to successfully overcome the multiple challenges facing our nation today.”

While reiterating the country’s challenges, he said: “I believe we can pull together to draw on our moral and political capital in steering our country out of its complex but not impossible, social, climate and economic challenges.”

He added that in a fresh start, the country could chart a course towards a strong and prosperous Pakistan.

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Asif Ali Zardari

National Assembly

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