President’s balanced address

UNLIKE the past when some Presidents could not address joint sessions as per requirements and tradition on beginning of parliamentary year, President Mamnoon Hussain has the distinction to address Parliament regularly and he fulfilled this task again for the fourth time on Thursday. His address covered almost all issues agitating minds of people of Pakistan and the international community besides topics that are dear to his countrymen and directly relevant to their daily life – ranging from Kashmir, terrorism, CPEC, relations with India, Afghanistan and rest of the world and education, health, communication, energy and infrastructure.
The opposition, as per its plans, tried to disrupt speech of the President by raising full-throat slogans against government and the Prime Minister, but the President successfully delivered his speech in a quiet, composed and confident manner. Usually, President’s speech to the joint session is supposed to have been contributed by different ministries, divisions and departments and mostly carries appreciation of government achievements in different fields but in this case the address was fairly balanced in that it did carry appreciation as well as critical appraisal of different issues and problems and the way out. Therefore, it was a balanced speech containing valuable suggestions and recommendations for government to implement to ameliorate the lot of common man and improve things in different areas. The President rightly underscored the importance and significance of Parliament in the backdrop of unfortunate attempts by some to undermine its prestige and credibility. His advice to all parties to sink their differences and join hands in strengthening democracy and Parliament need to be taken seriously if we are really interested to allow parliamentary system to work and deliver. As pointed out by Mamnoon Hussain, Parliament is the right and proper forum to discuss issues and formulate policies and strategies as we have witnessed in the case of evolution of a well-knit and coherent strategy to address the menace of extremism and terrorism. The tendency to agitate and sort out issues on roads or frequent referral of political issues to non-political institutions and personalities is the main reason for weakening of the system. There should also be national consensus on economic policies so that people could reap the benefits of programmes initiated by different governments for their welfare. The present government deserves credit for not succumbing to the temptation to bid farewell to one of the poverty alleviation programmes merely because it was named after leader of a particular party. This is the right approach and not the ones that resulted into abandoning of some of the mega projects and narrowing the scope of others like motorways. Dwindling exports are a cause for concern for every Pakistani, therefore, government ought to take the proposal of the President seriously to formulate a strategy through consultation with experts. The President also urged all segments of the society especially teachers, students, scholars and media to play their role in devising and implementing a counter-narrative to extremism and terrorism to win the war on terror on a long-term basis. He reminded neighbouring Afghanistan that the only viable solution to the issue of cross-border terrorism was strengthening of border management through mutual cooperation and hopefully Kabul would one day realise the sagacity of the proposition. The world community should also listen to repeated complaints of Pakistan that India was sponsoring terrorism and sabotage in the country, a point highlighted in the address as well. The President devoted a good part of his speech to the burning issue of Jammu & Kashmir and Indian atrocities against innocent people demanding their birthright of self-determination. He reiterated Pakistan’s principled position that the issue can only be resolved through UN-supervised plebiscite as per Security Council resolutions. In nutshell, the President speech had all the required elements and can form basis for a meaningful debate in both the houses where members should analyse it in right perspective and offer their share and contribution in crystallising solid input on different policy issues and programmes aimed at addressing problems of the people.

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