President underlines need for rooting out corruption & strengthening national institutions
President Dr Arif Alvi has urged the government and political parties to guide the nation in the right direction in accordance with the sentiments of the people to cope with multidimensional challenges facing the country.
He was addressing the joint sitting of the parliament in Islamabad this afternoon to mark beginning of the new Parliamentary year.
The President expressed the confidence that the government will chart out a road map in all sectors and at the same time ensure transparency in governance.
Arif Alvi pointed out that our political system has remained unstable for various reasons but it is heartening to note that the last three assemblies completed their full tenures during the last fifteen years.
He said parochial interests and rampant corruption are the biggest reasons behind our current challenges. He said the recent elections proved that people want a corruption free Pakistan. In order to control corruption, there is need to strengthen institutions of accountability in addition to a transparent system so that they could perform their duties honestly and without any discrimination.
Arif Alvi said the new government has resolved to make a New Pakistan. It was also the slogan of the government in the elections.
He opined that the concept of new Pakistan lies in promoting simplicity, discontinuation of unnecessary protocols and a corruption free system.
He said the present government has embarked upon a program to ensure maximum employment and housing facilities for the masses. If we succeed in this endeavor, it will be the change we all are clamoring for.
Referring to the issues of water shortages and climate change, the President said the construction of new water reservoirs is among the top priorities of the government. He expressed the confidence that the people of Pakistan including the expatriates will respond positively to the donations appeal of the Chief Justice and the Prime Minister. He said this will not only raise capital for construction of new dams but will also help enhance our foreign exchange reserves.
The President also stressed for water conservation saying we have to make our irrigation system more efficient. He said we have to adopt a comprehensive strategy to control seepage of water in our canals and water courses. Drip irrigation needs to be adopted rather than relying solely on flood irrigation.
The President said it is also imperative that we also focus on power, energy and electricity related issues. The Power transmission system needs to be made more efficient, line losses reduced and theft of electricity be eliminated. He said the relevant authorities need to work for promotion of run of the river projects along with strengthening the transmission infrastructure so that the generated power can be fed into the national grid and the transmission system across the country made more robust.
Highlighting the significance of agriculture sector, the President said new government has promised the development of this sector in its manifesto. An effective and comprehensive strategy needs to be adopted to provide pesticides, fertilizers and other agricultural instruments to farmers and associated people in this sector.
Referring to the health and education, the President emphasized the need for bringing improvement in both the sectors. He said the parliamentarians and the media should promote awareness regarding mother and child health and benefits of small family.
He stressed for provision of more opportunities to the women folk saying no country can progress without empowerment of women.
Arif Alvi said our sixty percent of population comprises of youth and we have to create employment opportunities for them on merit basis, qualification and capacity so that they can earn their livelihoods. He said they need to be equipped with vocational training so that they can find suitable jobs. He added that provision of small loans to start new businesses have to be made easy.
The President underscored need for promoting sports and Arts for the physical and mental growth of the youth. We have to obtain input of our scholars in the planning of this process.
Arif Alvi said that we have to eliminate regional, economic and social inequality and disparity. In particular development of Balochistan and other far flung areas needs our focus and attention. The constitution of Pakistan is a good social contract but it has not been fully put into practice. He expressed the confidence that the new government will fully implement the social contract so that the New Pakistan can be translated into reality.
Calling for investment in human capital, the President stressed for revamping of the educational system and introducing a uniform curriculum.
He said three million students are currently studying in religious seminaries. In order to bring them to the mainstream, the curriculum in these seminaries needs to be made compatible with the modern day requirement. This will enable these students to play their positive and proactive role in different walks of life. In this regard, he said the government needs to devise a strategy in consultation with the religious Scholars.
Voicing concerns over current state of economy, the President lamented that we are spending a major share of our resources on repayment of the national debt. He said there is a huge gap in the quantum of imports and exports. The circular debt has reached 1100 billion rupees in the last few years and the value of rupee has depreciated sharply in recent months. He said it is vital for us to strive to get out of this vicious cycle of poverty. He said that rectifying the direction of economy and promoting investment is a priority on the government's agenda. He expressed the confidence that government will be able to reduce fiscal deficit, redress the issues of state owned enterprises, formulate investment friendly policies and simplify the investment processes. For that purpose we have to reduce the role of government department and put a restrain on their discretionary powers. He said that overseas Pakistanis also need to be attracted and invited to invest into the country for job creation and to achieve self-resilience.
Alluding to the issue of peace and security, the President said terrorism and extremism has been overcome due to the sacrifices of law enforcement agencies and the resilience of the nation. He said our armed forces have become most successful and experienced military in countering the terrorism. The world can learn from us.
Touching upon the foreign policy, he said that cordial relations with all countries particularly, the neighbors and Muslim countries constitute the basis for the country's foreign policy.
He said Pakistan desires peaceful and good neighborly relations with India based on mutual co-existence. He stressed that the resolution of Kashmir dispute is essential to have an enduring relationship between the two countries. Blame game brings no solution to any dispute.
President Alvi reaffirmed Pakistan's moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people. He maintained that Pakistan will continue efforts at every level to resolve dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions.
Highlighting the sacrifices of Kashmiri people, he said denying the Kashmiris’ right of self-determination is condemnable. He urged the international community to play its role to bring an end to the grave human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir.
The President said our friendship with China is exemplary and is based on mutual trust. He said the two countries have also stood by each other in the hour of trial. He said the government fully supports the CPEC which is boosting economic activity in the region. He hoped the government completes the CPEC projects expeditiously which will help in further strengthening our relations and mark beginning of new era in the region. He expressed the confidence that energy and trade relations with the Central Asian Republics will also be strengthened.
He said Pakistan gives importance to its relations with Russia and expressed the confidence that relations in the fields of economy, defence and culture will be strengthened. He said our relations with Turkey are important factor in the stability and progress of the entire region.
On Afghanistan, the President said peace and stability there is vital for the peace in Pakistan. He said peace in Afghanistan will open new trade corridors for us and the region. He said we shall continue endeavors for this purpose with full sincerity.
As the President was going to start his address, some PML-N parliamentarians sought permission to speak, but the Speaker did not allow it stating that the rules do not permit for it.
In protest, the members belonging to PML-N staged walk out.
The Joint Session has now been prorogued.
Parliamentarians from different political parties have welcomed President Dr Arif Alvi's first address to joint session of Parliament.
Our Islamabad correspondent Bilal Mehsud has prepared a special report based on the impressions of these parliamentarians.