NAB should be strengthened to root out corruption: Alvi

ISLAMABAD (APP): President Dr Arif Alvi Thursday, in annual address to the Parliament, suggested a range of measures to the legislators to bring about improvement in lives of people by reforming multiple sectors including economy, education, health and agriculture.
During the joint session of Parliament, the President commenced the speech by referring to the massive devastation caused by super floods during current year monsoon season. He said the floods caused immense problems for Pakistan and its economy. He felicitated the Armed Forces for rescuing and saving lives of the people stranded in the floods. He also lauded the federal and provincial governments, disaster management authorities, non-governmental organizations and philanthropists for effective rescue and relief efforts and urgent distribution of financial assistance.
Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani and Speaker National Assembly Raja Pervaiz Ashraf chaired the session which marked the beginning of the fifth parliamentary year. The President said more than 1500 people lost their lives and houses, buildings and infrastructure were destroyed in the flash floods. Pakistan was emitting less than one percent of the global carbon emissions but facing severe issues due to climate change and global warming, he remarked. He thanked the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres for visiting the flood-afflicted areas and meeting the flood affectees in the country.
He thanked the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for visiting the flood-afflicted areas and meeting the flood affectees in the country. He lauded the United Nations for launching the flash appeal of $ 160 million in August and later another appeal of $ 816 million besides delivering aid to the flood victims in a coordinated manner. He said it was time to prepare youth so that they could deliver medical assistance and other essential aid during emergencies and natural disasters.
President Dr Alvi said Pakistan’s agriculture suffered immensely during floods and millions of acres of standing crops were destroyed and there would be massive loss in production of rice, wheat, cotton and other crops. He said the government should consider initiating crop insurance in collaboration with private companies to mitigate losses of the farmers. He underscored the need for building dams to save people from the devastation of floods, besides storing water for agriculture and other purposes. “We should learn from countries like The Netherlands which was 19 times smaller than Pakistan but was the second biggest exporter of food as it transformed its agriculture sector and improved productivity,” he added. He said Pakistan had abundant land and water resources and could improve its agriculture by adopting modern methods and technologies.
The President said Pakistan had achieved multiple accomplishments and successes, adding Pakistan defeated terrorism in a way which was unprecedented in the world. The nation also effectively tackled the coronavirus pandemic, he said and thanked Ulema, media and people for their cooperation in tackling the health challenge. He said Pakistan had immense human resources as 63 per cent or 35 million of its population was 15 to 33 years old youth. He emphasized the need for focusing on education of youth and skill development to bring visible economic change in the country.
The President said more than 20 million children were out of schools in Pakistan, adding education through mosques, should also be encouraged to prepare an educated and skilled workforce for future. Online education, information technology and science education should be promoted as the world needed millions of youth for future jobs in IT and science fields, he added. He mentioned the Prime Minister’s Digital Skills Programme from which 2.4 million people had already benefited.
He pointed out that cyber security had assumed immense importance in the fields of defence, military installations, economy and information. Pakistan could gain a foothold in the international market in the field of cyber security if people were equipped with the required skills, he noted. He said population planning was important for the progress of country, adding out of the nine million pregnancies every year in Pakistan, 50 per cent of them were occurred due to lack of awareness. Talking about health requirements of the nation, he said first 1000 days of children were very significant and they should be breast fed to protect them from stunting.
He appreciated the efforts of Benazir Income Support Programme and Ehsaas Programme for tackling the issue of malnutrition among youth. He said prevention and cleanliness was the best way to fight against communicable diseases. He thanked the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other organizations for bringing polio under control in Pakistan.
The President said early detection of breast cancer could save lives, adding 24 percent of the people in Pakistan were facing mental issues and stress but the country had less than 1900 psychiatrists and psychologists.
He said society also needed to tackle the issue of drug abuse as it was a silent killer. Dr Alvi said nine per cent population in Pakistan was suffering from hepatitis and prevention could save billions of dollars required to provide medical treatment to the patients. Helplines should be established so people could easily get medical consultation, he advised. Dr Arif Alvi said Islamic history had examples that make it evident that the religion encouraged women to become part of business activities. Digital inclusion of women should be ensured and they should be facilitated to work online from the safety of their homes or they should be provided safe workplaces outside of homes.
President Dr Alvi said China was a sincere friend of Pakistan and the two countries enjoyed an exemplary relationship spanning over decades. Both the countries were making progress on the Pakistan China Economic Corridor, he added. “Friendship of Pakistan and China is higher than Himalayas and deeper than ocean. The bilateral relationship is based on respect and mutual interests.” He said the United States was Pakistan’s largest trading partner and “we think that the bilateral relations can be improved further”. He emphasized that Pakistan wanted relations with all countries on basis of mutual trust, dignity and honour.
He also referred to Pakistan’s growing relations with the European Union, Afghanistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Gulf states. He said Pakistan wanted Afghanistan to be peaceful, stable and prosperous. “We think that peace in Afghanistan is critical for stability and progress in the region.” Pakistan would benefit from peace in Afghanistan as it would enhance regional trade and cooperation among countries in energy sector. He pointed out that Pakistan could get out of the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) with collective efforts of the parties in the Parliament.
He reiterated Pakistan’s desire to live in peace with India but made it clear that peace between the two countries could not be achieved without resolution of the Kashmir dispute. He renewed the call for dialogue with India on all issues including Kashmir. The President said Kashmir issue should be resolved according to the United Nations Security Council resolutions.
In his speech, he also raised the issue of marginalization of Muslims in India and acts of terror and violence unleashed against them by the Hindu extremists. He warned that India was moving towards genocide of Muslims and the violent tendencies of Hindus were even affecting societies like United Kingdom. He said National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should be strengthened to root out corruption but the department should not be used for political victimization. The President once again called upon political parties across the spectrum to sit together and agree on a timetable for new elections with the objective to end polarization.