Madam Speaker, Fahmeeda Mirza: I invite Honorable President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan Mr. Asif Ali Zardari to address under clause 3 of Article 56 of the constitution to both the housed assembled together.
Asif Ali Zardari: Start with the name of Allah, the merciful the beneficent. Madam Speaker, honorable members of Parliament Aslam-o-Alaikum! I bow my head in gratitude before Allah for standing here today to address the joint session of the parliament. I thank the members of the parliament and of all the provincial assemblies for imposing confidence in me and electing me to this high officer. I have been given this singular honor and the privilege in the name of Shaheed (Martyr) Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto [clapping]
I am humble to be standing there in front of the seat of democratic power in Pakistan. On this important day our thoughts go to the Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto the first woman Prime Minister of the Muslim world and twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan whose personal sacrifice and courage has made democracy possible. We are here; this parliament is here because of the historic choices she made. It is indeed her day; I wish she was addressing this parliament today and not me. Our thoughts also go out to the Shuhada (martyrs) of Karsaz, to the martyrs of Liaquat Bagh tragedy of December 27 (2007) and those martyred on July 17 (2007) in Islamabad and on May 12 (2007) in Karachi and indeed to all those martyrs and injured for the cause. At this moment in time I also to pay homage to the brave soldiers who have embraced martyrdom on our borders and mountains as well as to those who gave their lives. Today I ask this August house to join me in a prayer for all the Shaheeds (martyrs) including Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and specially Mir Murtaza Bhutto whose death anniversary is mark of today [Silence and Prayer]. They are the real heroes. For myself that I stand here after crossing a river of blood and tears, I have been a prisoner of conscience, but will never let that make me prisoner of history. This means that while I will learn from history, I will never allow my decision to be dictated by politics of vengeance and bitter memories. It is time for us to move on God has given us a unique opportunity and we must not waste it. I wish to congratulate the elected members of the parliament; I also congratulate the Prime Minister, the Federal, Provincial governments on assuming their responsibilities. The mandate you have is both an honor and a great responsibility.
Madam Speaker, to address this joint session of Parliament in less than to weeks of my election as the President shows that we hold the parliament in its highest esteem and accord highest priorities to fulfillment of its obligations under the constitution and the law. Under the dictatorship, the parliament was tipped of its powers and not given due respect the constitution requires that the President address the joint sitting of the parliament after election and the beginning of every parliamentary year yet in the last 8 years the head of state only once addressed the joint sitting of the parliament but let me assure you that days of constitutional deviation and bypassing the parliament while taking the decisions of national importance are over. As head of state I wish to make it clear that the President and the government must and always seek guidance from the parliament in carrying out our duties. We are committed to upholding the supremacy of constitution, the supremacy of the parliament and the rule of law. The cardinal principle of the governance is respect of the mandate of the people as manifested in February 18th (2008) election.
Madam Speaker, honorable members of the parliament, I have dream for Pakistan. My dream is to free this great country from the shackles of poverty, hunger, terrorism and disunity and I know that as law makers you too share the dream. For every hope we need a plan and for every plan we need an agenda, without doubt, a heavy national agenda challenges your government. This is the agenda of moving quickly to heal the wounds of past, to restore the trust in the federation, trendy an apology to the people of Balochistan was a long overdue step. The release from the captivity of the former chief minister of Baluchistan is also a positive move. The resolution recently of the long standing dispute and payments of billions of rupees to Balochistan is a step in the right direction but much more needs to be done. Successive bellows have weaken the federation, it needs to be strengthen for this the bitterness of the past must give way to reconciliation and harmony. I believe that the 1973 constitution is the only consensus document that can freshen such a social contract. I also request the government to start the consensus building process on the provincial autonomy and allotment of resources through a new formula that meets the needs of a united federation [clapping]. We must root out terrorism and extremism where and whenever they may rear their ugly heads. Reforming the tribal areas, bringing them into the mainstream of national life can no longer be delayed they must be treated at par with the rest of Pakistan‘s brethren. The people of Northern Areas must also get their basic rights representative rule and an independent judiciary. We believe in the independence of judiciary and all matters concerning the judiciary that shall be resolved in accordance with the constitution and the law and other great responsibility rests on your shoulders, this the removal of the distortions in the constitution made by successive dictators to prolong their rule. As a democratically elected President of Pakistan, I call upon the parliament to form an all party’s committee to revisit the 17th Amendment and article 58-2(b) [clapping]. Never before in the history of this country has a President stood here and given away his powers [clapping].
Madam Speaker, Pakistan is at a critical security juncture today. In order to meet the challenges posed to (by) the extremist and terrorist elements in the tribal areas and adjoining regions, the government has devised a comprehensive three pronged strategy. First to make peace with those who are willing to keep the peace and renounce violence, second, to invest in development and social uplift of the local people and third to use force only as the last resort against those who refuse to surrender their arms, take the law into their hands, challenge the writ of government and attack the security forces. For all the stake holder to have ownership of this policy, I will request the government to hold a national security briefing for an in camera joint session of Parliament. Let every [clapping] have an opportunity to make an independent informed judgment about the risks to our beloved country and about how we should move forward with responsibility, clarity of vision. I ask of the government that it should be firm in its resolve to not allow the use of its soil carrying out terrorist activities against any foreign country. We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism (clapping).
Madam Speaker and honorable members of the parliament, I believe that world has become a dangerous place for nations with conflicts on their borders so we need peace not only within Pakistan but also in our neighborhood at all times, we must keep our national interest in mind this means understanding the limits of confrontation, under this strategy President of Afghanistan Hamid Kirzai was specially invited to my oath taking ceremony as a mark of Pakistan’s sincere desire and consistence effort to promote close relations and strengthen cooperation with the brotherly country of Afghanistan. On the other side, we India, the government believes that the relationship between two countries can and should be creatively reinvented as Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto said it is and I quote, “It is time for new ideas, it is time for bold commitments and it is time for honesty both among people and between people there has been enough pain. It is time for reconciliation”. For these ideas and for seeking peaceful in the region, we were once called a security risk by our critics but ideas can not be killed by oppression. The charter of democracy binds the government to a framework of peace and justice for the people of Pakistan and peace and friendship with idea, Pakistan has decided to resume composite dialogue process with India driving our relations through enhanced trade, we express our complete commitment to Kashmiri people in their just struggle for restoration of fundamental rights. We will continue to seek settlement (clapping) of all outstanding disputes including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir so that the main hurdle in the way of towards peace and full normalization of relations between Pakistan and India is removed. As a new initiative, we will start cross LOC (Line of Control) trade a pioneering CBM (confidence building measure). We will also propose a more liberal visa regime to further expand people to people contacts and friendly exchange and establish new facilities for visiting Sikhs and Hindu pilgrims. As another initiative to our relationships with India, I will urge the parliament to form a bi-partisan caucus for the propose of resolving outstanding disputes relating to Kashmir and the Indus Water head works. All parties must be represented on this caucus so that the nation is united on this key issue and draw strength by speaking in one voice [clapping].
Madam Speaker, the greatest challenge this government faces is an economic one. No elected government can survive the prospect of its people going hungry. The immediate and the most urgent task before the government is to provide food security to the common man burdened with the rising prices of food items but we must realize that given the global oil and food shocks we face today and the neglect of the agricultural sector for the past nine years this will not be enough to take the edge off growing poverty of our people’s face, to provide immediate relief to the poorest of the poor, the government has introduced a welfare scheme across the board with no political strings attached like the Benazir income support scheme for which a budgetary allocation of 34 billion has been made in the current financial year. The ban on trade union has been removed and the minimum wage of an un-skilled worker has been increased.
Madam Speaker, I do realize that all of this is not enough undoubtedly, your government inherited an economy that was driven by pure consumption and as such was saddled with huge liabilities of unpaid subsidy claims on account of petroleum products, power tariffs and luxury imports. The subsidies on oil and gas that we have removed is something no political government wants to shift but this is a bitter pill we had to swallow because our balance of payment accounts could not sustain the expenditures of last regime. I see a new beginning of our economy marked by the program of restoring investor’s confidence, resumption of foreign investment, gradual buildup of reserves, exchange rate stability and above all revival of sustainable——(one word missing).
Madam Speaker, I am aware of the harsh reality that Pakistan is passing through, an acute energy crisis due to the serious shortfall of electricity unlike the last government that did not install the single new megawatt in seven years, our government has taken immediate short and medium term measures to address the issue. We can not take Pakistan out of darkness in one month but we can certainly do it by the end of next year.
Madam Speaker, the government needs to set core priorities. I believe the vast and rapidly changing agriculture sector offers enormous opportunities hundreds and thousands of rural poor to break the vicious cycle of poverty. Agriculture land growth will rise farm income, lower food prices and generate surplus for exports that we are so urgently need therefore agriculture needs to be placed at the top of the agenda for ensuring food security on a long term basis generating jobs and income for a vast majority of people living in the rural areas of the country, for the first time in the history of Pakistan, the government looking at crop insurance schemes [clapping].
Madam Speaker, just development is not possible without justice for women. I note with pain that despite the legislation that protects women, the women of this great nation continue to suffer crimes against them [in] disturbing frequencies, I will request the government to do utmost, to not just provide protection to women but to empower them at every step of the long round to their just entitlement as full citizens of this state. We can not reverse the decades of social backwardness [clapping] by one stoke of pen but we can and we will turn this tide slowly but surely. For the first time ever all state allotments both in income support or land will be made in the name of women of this country as my late wife Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto would have wanted [clapping]. This is a first step in the long journey but let me assure you the women of Pakistan will stand with me in this venture. I also note that the minorities of Pakistan have played a crucial role in the development of the country but have not received the social and political due, we will further draw them into mainstream of national life and make full use of their potentials.
Madam Speaker, members of the parliament, media has come a long way from the first day the PPP (Pakistan Peoples Part Government) opened air ways to private networks. Our government lost no time into the dismantle the infrastructure of violence that last regime left behind replacing the PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) and print media ordinance which hung over the media’s head like a sword. We will soon be bringing other fundamental laws such as the freedom of information bill and work with the stake holders towards an open atmosphere of self regulation with no interference from the state. I have requested the government of day to look into providing wage support housing colonies in every province at low cost basis for journalists [clapping].
Madam Speaker, under the new set up the parliament is asserting its role as a sovereign body. For the first time in more than 44 years the defense budget was discussed in the National Assembly (NA). Also, for the first time in the history of Pakistan, we have a appointed the chairman of Public Accounts committee, from the opposition as per our commitment in the charter of democracy [clapping]. And we all know that across the board, the transparent accountability from the key pillar of a good government, unfortunately, accountability has been grossly misused as an instrument of Political witch hunting. I believe the government has decided to repeal the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) ordinance and replace it with a system that is across the board, transparent and with in the accepted norms of mainstream judicial system. The hard provisions in the FCR are being done away with, a committee of FATA and another committee of FCR are setup by the government are finalizing the recommendations, I have recommended to the government that they change the name of NWFP to Pakhtunkhwa [clapping] in response to long standing demand of people of the province.
Madam Speaker, members of the parliament, in the realm of the foreign policy, it will be our endeavor to promote regional and international peace and security as well as the economic and social development of our people. The world has changed to market (may be marked) democracy, our foreign policy would be geared to not only defense of territorial integrity and sovereignty but also promotion of commercial and economic interest. Pakistan can position itself as a trade and energy hub for South and Central Asia. We will strengthen our brotherly relations with Iran; take our time test and all weather friendship and strategic partnership with China to greater heights. We the United States and our European partners, we will endeavor to build a long term partnership that is broad based and mutually beneficial. Pakistan will continue to extend full support to the Palestinian cause of self determination. We value our ties with Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Libya. We will rejuvenate our relation with the Arab League, the OIC, the ASEAN to promote the bilateral trade and investment. With the Islamic and the Arab countries we enjoy excellent relations, we will further develop our friendship with the countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa. We underscore our commitment to principles of UN Charter, international law and the values of common humanity.
Madam Speaker, honorable parliamentarians, Democracy in Pakistan has finally being restored but still a tender sapling which needs nurturing before it becomes a great sheltering tree. There are still elements who want to derail it yet once again, with faith in democracy and the national reconciliation as envisioned by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, we must remain vigilant against such elements, the people of Pakistan have great hope, expectation from this parliament, to help them realize their dreams, we need to join hands and work together in harmony and not discord. The politics of this… (Some text missing spread over 5-10 seconds) envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Quaid-e-Awan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto… (Some text missing spread over 5-10 seconds) and live and that is the Pakistan for which I as a president will lead you all with support as someone who has walked from the death cell to Presidency. Let me assure you, nothing is impossible, I can stare the country out of darkness with the help of this government. I am confident that you will rise to their expectations and not disappoint our people. Let us pledge to help built together a secure strong and prosperous Pakistan. May Allah help us in this noble mission Pakistan Khapay (want), Khapay, Khapay, Pakistan Paindabad!