President Arif Alvi addressed a joint session of parliament on Thursday to mark the advent of the new parliamentary year and recounted the performance of the PTI government over the past two years.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also attended the joint session.
Members of the opposition shouted slogans and voiced their protest as National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser invited the president to speak. Shortly after, some members of the opposition staged a walkout and held a press conference outside Parliament House.
Alvi began his address by highlighting the PTI government’s performance over the past two years.
“We should look back on the past two years to see what has been done, what will be done and what should be done.”
He congratulated the people of the country for fighting terrorism. “Another achievement is that you provided shelter to Afghan refugees.”
Other countries preach about human rights but don’t let even 10 migrants enter their countries, he said, adding that Pakistan had shown its open-heartedness.
The president said that “positive news” was not highlighted in the country by the media. “If I have a child, I will encourage them, let them know they have done a good job and that they can do better instead of telling them they have done this or that wrong.”
Referring to the coronavirus pandemic, the president said that initially there was a lot of fear mongering that the “people will die in the streets”.
“Across the Muslim world, Taraweeh prayers and daily prayers at mosques were banned [for fear of the virus spreading]. But we worked with our religious scholars and continued with prayers at mosques.
“When there is a will to take care of the vulnerable segment of society, there is success.”
Alvi added that now the world was recognising the government’s response to the pandemic. “Today, the world is giving our example. I don’t remember the last time I heard something like that.”
He also touched upon the government’s Ehsaas programme, introduced to provide those most affected by the fallout from the virus with cash stipends.
“I commend the premier and the government for standing by their Covid-19 response despite criticism from the opposition.”
Turning to the country’s economy, President Alvi said Pakistan’s current account deficit had reduced despite the coronavirus wreaking havoc.
“Our ratings by Moody’s and Fitch have improved, showing us that they think the country’s situation looks good.”
It shows that the government’s policies are working, and if the coronavirus had not emerged, it would have managed to take it to new heights, he said.
Commenting on occupied Kashmir, the president said that it was only due to the premier’s efforts that the matter was taken up by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) thrice during the past year. “This is your victory.”
He also lauded the premier for his strong remarks on Israel, in which he stated that Pakistan would not recognise it as a state until Palestine is freed. “Such bold statements give strength to other countries.”
The president also congratulated the parliament for helping the government pass bills aimed at removing the country from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list.
“The opposition made so much noise last year […] I thought this time they would listen,” said Alvi, referring to the walkout. Congratulating the parliament on passing the FATF bills, he said “this is what a parliament is supposed to do”.
“I keep getting asked if we are all on the same page and I say that all institutions have the same goals. The government, Pakistan Army, the judiciary, and the media are on the same page.
“We want easy and quick justice for the people and zero compromise on corruption. We also want to overcome all hindrances in the way of the country’s development.”
He concluded his speech by addressing the country’s youth. “We want to urge the youth to work hard and hold onto the lessons taught by our culture.”
“Pakistan is at a tipping point. Whether anyone sees it or not, you should be able to see that.”
‘Everything being said based on lies’
Addressing a press conference outside Parliament House after walking out of the joint session, PPP leader Raja Pervez Ashraf said that the people of Pakistan were being “duped”.
“What happened to the jobs promised to the youth, the five million houses you said you would build.”
He also lashed out at the president for “agreeing with everything like a PTI worker”.
“He doesn’t deserve the title of president.”
He added that the opposition had done the “right thing” by walking out of the session.
“Should we have sat and listened to the lies told to Pakistan? We couldn’t sit there and so we have come outside to tell the nation that [Alvi’s] address was only a need of the parliament. Otherwise it had no value.
“Everything being said was based on lies, Pakistan is facing difficulties and the people are helpless.”