ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi on Thursday said all the state institutions including the armed forces, the judiciary, the Parliament, the government, and the media were "on one page" for Pakistan's progress.
"We all want legal, economic, and social justice, we're all in one direction. there's no compromise on corruption, and we all want to overcome hindrances in Pakistan's progress!" the president said in his address to the joint sitting of parliament on the start of the new parliamentary year.
Prime Minister Imran Khan — who met National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser shortly before the session started — was also present in the House as were Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Raza Rabbani, Mushahidullah Khan, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Maulana Asad Mehmood, and Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.
Top opposition leaders Shehbaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, however, were not present nor was BNP-M leader Akhtar Mengal due to having contracted the coronavirus.
Members of the opposition parties protested and chanted slogans against the PTI government while the JUI-F staged a walkout shortly after the session commenced.
In his speech, Alvi congratulated the House for completing two years, saying he was honoured to be speaking there for the third time. He also lauded the PTI government for its performance, saying he would present its wins to the House.
"Pakistan is at that point where it should be reviewed what has been done so far, what should have been done, and what should be done in the future," he said.
The nation has had three lessons in the past, he added, noting that no chance should be wasted to remind the people of Pakistan of what they have learnt and what they have achieved, and how they are on the way to becoming a great country.
"We all collectively fought terrorism. Pakistan is the only nation that fought terrorism," he added, congratulating the politicians and armed forces for the win against the menace.
"We also provided a home to the 3.5 million Afghan refugees, we welcomed them with open hearts, and no politician or government spoke ill of them," he added.
The president highlighted how "100 refugees were stranded in the Mediterranean" after "global powers that lectured us on refugees refused to let them in".
"Pakistan set up an example, Pakistan told the world how it lectured us but showed how we welcomed the [Afghan] refugees," he added.
Alvi also listed a third victory — the battle against extremism. "The importance of this one is, even more, considering what's going on in our east-side neighbouring country, where extremism is rising," he explained.
He underlined how when the incumbent government came into power, there was "a huge burden of debts, corruption was rife, and the economy was on a downtrend".
"The first year, I, too, was worried; people advised me to sign a deal with the IMF [International Monetary Fund] or ask for assistance from friendly nations.
"But whatever we decided has led to positive effects on our economy," he added.
The president lamented how the situation at present was such that "good news is not promoted".
"Our nation is young. Instead of giving it strength, there's more talk in the media and elsewhere of what it didn't do. [This leads to] depression being created that a nation that should be growing ends up losing motivation.
"This is a major injustice and I challenge you here that this is the time when you tell the nation to rise and stand up, instead of telling it that it won't be able to do so," he said.
"Nations are built based on strong and visionary decisions, not just on science and data but on the basis of compassion. I believe the vision and priorities should be clear in the mind of the nation and only then it becomes a true vision.”
While referring to the controversy over complete and smart lockdowns in the country to contain the COVID-19, the president said despite immense pressure the government did what was right for the nation. “We created the vision that we will not let the poor die of starvation.”
"We made use of foresight. What we did was completely different to all the pressure, all the data, and whatever the rest of the world was doing.
"Our smart lockdown led to lower deaths and reduced exposure [to the coronavirus] and today, just before coming here I read that in India, on Wednesday, 70,000 new cases were identified. And in Pakistan? Only 600.
"There must be something we did, right? We're genetically similar, we have the same atmosphere and resources, but we did something good.
"Therefore, I believe the government deserves commendation for its efforts against the coronavirus [pandemic] and the world agrees!"
The president stressed there was no moment in Pakistan's history as far as he could remember when the world had looked up to Pakistan to learn from it. There were two nations — Japan and the Philippines — that admitted it was possible to learn from Pakistan with respect to the coronavirus.
He lauded the media for encouraging and reminding people to follow the SOPs, as well as the Ulema, doctors, and paramedical staff for their services. He also appreciated the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC), the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and PM Imran for withstanding pressure and remaining steadfast.
With regard to the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, he said 16.9 million benefitted from Rs12,000 per family, effectively translating into 80-90 million assisted by the government of Pakistan. "This compassion is something that God probably liked and then He helped us in the coronavirus [pandemic]," he noted.
The president, while speaking about the Single National Curriculum (SNC), said it would help create one nation. "It won't be that the children of wealthy parents learn differently," he added.
"We provided 50,000 scholarships in one year. This is important because, in the past 17 years, only 23,000 scholarships were awarded," he noted.
President Alvi appealed to ulema, media, and everyone to speak about healthy population.
He said he believed the people were "misers in terms of women's inheritance rights". Referring to Surah Al-Nisa, he requested the Ulema for guidance because "women empowerment would only occur through this and when inheritance is given to the women in accordance with God's laws".
With regard to the economy, Alvi emphasised that Pakistan registered gains despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The current account deficit reduced from $20 billion to $8.5 billion, he said, and corrected himself by saying it was $3 billion when someone pointed it out.
The president also noted that international credit rating agencies Moody's and Fitch showed that Pakistan had become stable and positive, while the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) indicated that people had hope for good in future as it rose beyond the 40,000-point mark.
Remittances shot up from $20 billion to $23 billion and in July, were at a historical record, he said. "This is the confidence of overseas Pakistanis and this is a good opportunity to promise again to our overseas Pakistanis brethren about voting rights. I urge this government not to let this go and ensure their voting rights are established in 2023 or before.
The president said the government had released a construction package, that the ML-1 Railways project was a "big game-changer", and that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was going on as usual.
The work on the Diamer-Bhasha Dam project had sped up, he said, adding that it would help in water storage and produce electrical energy worth 4,500 megawatts (MW).
He also spoke of the Kamyab Jawan Programme and Sehat Sahoolat Card, noting that 100% health coverage had been ensured in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Speaking of Kashmir, the president said: "I congratulate PM Imran, who vowed to be Kashmir's ambassador since the start and spoke about it in the United Nations.
"Our government pushed four or five times for the Kashmir issue to be discussed in the UN Security Council. This is a win, we're all united in this. We condemn India's steps of August 5, 2019, violence and aggression in Kashmir, and [the treatment of] Muslims and minorities in India.
"In India, violence is being egged on. Look at the CAA [Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019], registration [National Register of Citizens (NRC)], the isolating of minorities.
"India has violated all agreements, resolutions, including the Geneva Conventions, Human Rights Charter [Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)], Simla Agreement, UNSC Resolutions.
"Soon, Kashmir would be free. This Hindutva fascist situation cannot continue on anymore," he added.
He also congratulated the premier for "speaking directly on the Israel issue immediately", underlining that Pakistan did not recognise Israel.
"Seeing this, other nations also gathered courage. We clearly said that until Palestinians are given their rights and their state, in line with Quaid-e-Azam's point of view, Pakistan won't recognise Israel," he added.
Alvi also thanked Turkey, Malaysia, China, Azerbaijan, and Iran for their support on the Kashmir issue, saying "our friendship continues" and "our friendship with Saudi Arabia is very strong and we care about each other".
He said Pakistan was the second most-affected country due to the war, crises, and terrorism in Afghanistan and would also gain the most, after Afghanistan itself, from peace there.
"We want peace to be established in Afghanistan and we support the US-Taliban talks and talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government," he said.
With regard to environmental efforts, including the Billion Tree Tsunami Project, he said the goals for a clean and green Pakistan were clear and good for the country.
The president congratulated the Parliament for the passage of bills related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), anti-money-laundering, and terrorism.
In a message to the youth of Pakistan, Alvi said they should work hard and not let go of their values, rules, and traditions. "Do not let your belief in Pakistan falter because Pakistan is on way to progress.
"As the prime minister said, Pakistan is on a tipping point, whether anyone else sees or not, but for the first time in its history, Pakistan has a bright future that was never seen before," he added.