Arif Alvi (inset) addresses the joint session of parliament in National Assembly in Islamabad on Monday. Courtesy / PTI Twitter
Tariq Butt, Correspondent
Amid the opposition protest, President Dr Arif Alvi, during his address to the parliament on Monday, lauded the government’s performance on various fronts especially economy, social and human development and foreign policy.
The president continued his speech as the opposition parties initially protested, shouting slogans against the government and Prime Minister Imran Khan.
They also held banners rejecting the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) law. Later, they staged a walkout. The top brass of the armed forces, chief
Alvi congratulated the MPs on the start of the new legislative year, and expressed the wish that democratic values and "tradition of tolerance" flourished in Pakistan.
Talking about the economic challenges last year, the president noted that world economies shrank due to the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, but due to the government's prudent policies, "Pakistan's economic performance was better compared to other countries."
Amid loud protest by the opposition benches, the president paused to say: "Despite you making noise, you will have to accept the reality."
He noted that in the financial year 2020-21, Pakistan's exports increased to $25.3 billion, while the Pakistan Stock Exchange "broke all past records and became Asia's best-performing market and world's fourth-best." He said overseas investors had shown confidence in government policies and business confidence had increased by 60 per cent.
"People paying tax in such large numbers shows complete trust in government policies," Alvi said, congratulating the government for devising and implementing laws and procedures to address the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force.
Recounting the government's steps to uplift the masses, he said it had given a big construction package to people from the lower segments and the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme was started. "Not only has there been speed in financial activities but also opportunities for livelihood have been created," he added.
He acknowledged the 2.77% growth in the agriculture sector, and lauded a government initiative to provide skills training to youth under which he said 1.7 million youngsters had been provided opportunities.
The president said with the help of technologies such as cloud computing, software development and data analysis, there was a possibility of achieving faster development, while the youth could help in controlling cyber defence and security issues.
He also appreciated the government for adopting policies based on human compassion, saying human development indexes had been neglected in the past.
"Because of corruption and wrong priorities, we were not only deprived of progress but also left behind the world in human development indicators," he said, noting that in the modern age, national security was not just limited to borders and soldiers but also depended on food, education and health sectors.
The president mentioned a number of social protection measures introduced by the government under the umbrella of the Ehsaas programme, saying their highlight was that they focussed on humans.
He noted that the government had set aside Rs260 billion through which 12 million families will be given cash income, while Rs100b had been earmarked for the Kamyab Jawan programme to give loans to the youth to start businesses.
On the government's efforts in the health sector, Alvi said "Pakistan is going towards universal health coverage," adding that 18 million families were benefitting from the health cards so far.
For quite some time, the area became a battleground between the police and protesters. The government servants had planned the protest for the past two weeks and had made announcements to the effect.
"We had a very difficult two years. We didn't have foreign exchange and couldn't pay our debts. We have avoided a huge crisis because we didn't default (payments). But I know it hasn't been easy for the people, I understand the difficulties they faced and still are facing,” he said in a televised address to the nation.
In a tweet on Sunday, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Syed Shibli Faraz said the prime minister will receive phone calls from general public at 4pm tomorrow. General public can contact the prime minister by dialing 051-9210809 to directly talk to Imran Khan.
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