President’s address

Zardari’s call for making a fresh start met by Opposition protest

President Asif Zardari made the constitutionally mandated address to Parliament to begin the parliamentary year, and was greeted by Opposition protests. Some form of opposition bad behaviour is exhibited in the presidential address, perhaps because it has drifted from the original purpose of informing Parliament of the legislative measures intended by the government in the coming year, along with the reasons thereof. Though it is to be presumed that the address was made on the Prime Minister’s advice, it was free of any reference to the legislation planned for the coming year. This gives rise to the disturbing thought that the government does not plan any legislation, and will just wing it in the coming. Though there was some reference to the need to tap untapped potential in agriculture, marine life and textiles, among others, it did not seem that any programme presented, such as the fulsome praise of the Special Investment Facilitation Council, was designed for anything less than the entire five-year tenure.

However, the President used the opportunity to call for a fresh start, for meaningful dialogue and parliamentary consensus. This olive branch to the PTI was greeted by the opposition, consisting of PTI-backed independents, trying to howl him down. It was perhaps an indication that nobody on the opposition benches was authorized to engage in that dialogue, as the leader of the PTI was not just out of Parliament, but in jail. President Zardari was not just an honest broker, but also the head of one of the coalition parties, something he indicated during the address not just by his references to his two predecessors, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, but by the use of the picture of the latter.

The PTI’s response is an indication that the path to reconciliation is not going to be an easy one. It is true that the country needs political stability if it is to obtain the foreign investment it needs to generate economic activity. However, one of the flaws with the President’s suggestion was that there was no quid pro quo. Any PTI activist willing to take him up would not recognize what the government was offering in return for PTI cooperation. The PTI might be divided and its leader imprisoned, but it did better in the recent election than perhaps it itself expected. However, it has not been given any incentive to talk. The present confrontational suits its purposes more than talks of any kind.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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