President’s address to parliament – Zardari unlikely to have smooth sailing

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ISLAMABAD – Rumpus is expected as President Asif Ali Zardari addresses a joint sitting of both houses of parliament for the fourth consecutive year today (Tuesday) amid announcements by major opposition parties to either walk out of the session or registering protests on the government’s failure to deal with national and public issues. Zardari is going to make history as he would be the only democratically-elected president to address parliament for the fourth time.
Though the president saw a friendly and cordial opposition during the previous three times he addressed the joint session, he might face an unpleasant protest being planned by most of the opposition parties. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had to face an embarrassment when PML-Q President Shujaat Hussain declined to receive his telephone calls twice – one on Sunday and another on Monday.
President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the president would portray the future agenda of his party’s government for two years with a special focus on economic development and the government’s strategy to tackle the difficulties being faced by the people. He expressed hope that the opposition would review its decision to protest during the president’s address to the joint session and demonstrate having values of a true democratic process.
Though Babar said it was the democratic right of the opposition to protest during the address of the president, however, he said the protest should be in accordance with the democratic norms. He said that president’s address was being prepared therefore he could not divulge further details. The prime minister took on board the parliamentary parties of the coalition government regarding president’s address.
Gilani also contacted Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Nisar Ali Khan, Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad, Jamiat Ulema-Islam-Fazl chief Fazlur Rehman, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Senate Deputy Chairman Mir Jan Muhammad Jamali and sought their cooperation on the issue.
Meanwhile, PPP leaders Rehman Malik, Khurshid Shah and Naveed Qamar visited PML-Q chief Shujaat Hussain and requested him not to walk out on the eve of the presidential address.
Malik and Nawab Aslam Raisani visited the JUI-F chief and also sought his cooperation. Addressing the parliamentary leaders of coalition parties from the Senate and the National Assembly at the Prime Minister’s House, Gilani said the government would continue its reconciliation policy. “It is rightly a moment of pride for the democratic forces of the country as the fourth parliamentary year would start with the address of the president to the joint session.
It is a manifestation of the fact that democratic norms were gaining strength in the country. It is most unfortunate that during the previous regime, the president did not address parliament in almost nine years which was a constitutional requirement,” he added.