President Zardari urges political parties to shun polarisation; rakes up Kashmir issue

ISLAMABAD, Apr 18: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday urged political leaders to shun the politics of polarisation to address the challenges faced by the cash-strapped country, amidst sloganeering by lawmakers from jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s party against him and the government.
Addressing the joint session of Parliament to mark the beginning of the new parliamentary year after the general elections held on February 8, Zardari raked up the Kashmir issue and underlined the need to resolve it to ensure peace and development in South Asia.
In his address, the veteran leader, elected Pakistan president for a second time, said that he believed in the strength of the nation to tackle all challenges in a united manner.
“The country needs us to move from the polarisation so common now to contemporary politics. This joint house must play a leading role in rebuilding public confidence in the parliamentary process,” Zardari said.
He said that the leadership “should take a pause and reflect on what we prioritise in our goals, narratives and agendas,” adding that he believed that the leaders could “lift the political atmosphere to reflect more light than heat.”
Zardari, co-chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), was the candidate of the coalition government and took oath as the 14th President last month after defeating jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s PTI-backed Sunni Ittehad Council presidential candidate Mahmood Khan Achakzai.
He declared that he viewed his role as a “unifying symbol of a joint and unified federation,” while urging the political leaders to turn on a new page. “If we see today as a new beginning we can invest in our strength and people by focusing on public needs,” he said.
Zardari said he always drew inspiration from great leaders like Muhammad Ali Jinnah and ex-premiers Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, his late spouse, who showed that the country could overcome the challenges.
“They (challenges) just require dialogue, parliamentary consensus and a timeline of implementation of rigorous reforms aimed to address new and underlying issues facing us,” he said.
Zardari urged for an inclusive growth model based on equality of opportunities for all provinces, allowing everyone to play a role in revitalizing the economy. He said attracting foreign investment should be the country’s primary objective, while asking the government to simplify existing regulations and enable an environment for domestic and foreign investors.
On Kashmir, he said that India should reverse all steps taken since August 5, 2019, and allow the people of Kashmir to exercise the right of self-determination to determine their future. He also said that peace was essential for development in the South Asia region and the solution of Kashmir was a key for peace.
India has made it clear to Pakistan that the entire Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were integral and inalienable parts of the country.
New Delhi has also asserted that the constitutional measures taken by the Indian government to ensure socio-economic development and good governance in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir are matters internal to India.
In his address, Zardari also highlighted the issue of climate change, recalling the devastating super floods of 2022 that devastated the country.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf lawmakers protested during the address, chanting “go Zardari go” but the president was undeterred and delivered his address with confidence.
Radio Pakistan reported this was Zardari’s record seventh address to the joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate. During his five-year stint in the Presidency from 2008 to 2013, he addressed the parliament six times. (PTI)