Opinion
Tuesday Nov 30 2021
By

President Alvi blesses family business: A potential conflict of interest?

Dr Awab Alvi during the MoU signing between Alvi Dental and Bringing Smiles USA. Photo: Awab Alvi Twitter
Dr Awab Alvi during the MoU signing between Alvi Dental and Bringing Smiles USA. Photo: Awab Alvi Twitter 

The president’s son, Dr Awab Alvi, recently took to Twitter to announce that his family business, Alvi Dental, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bringing Smiles USA. 

Alvi wrote that under the agreement the two companies will be opening up a chain of dental practices to bring affordable care to Pakistan.

President Dr Arif Alvi also congratulated his son on Twitter, for bringing in foreign investment and wished him success.

The image of the MoU signing showed the president in attendance, which divided netizens with some asking if this was a direct conflict of interest? Was the president using his official position to benefit his family business? While others argued that this was merely a familial obligation.

Alvi Dental is a private dental business run by the president’s son, from which Dr Arif Alvi resigned, states his son, after he was appointed president in 2018. 

However, the website of the practice still lists the president as a dentist and part of “Our Team”, even providing an option to 'schedule an appointment'.

President Alvi blesses family business: A potential conflict of interest?


President Alvi blesses family business: A potential conflict of interest?

Geo.tv asks legal experts to weigh in on the president blessing his family business with his words and his presence as a public office holder:

'Offense under NAB law and violation of oath'

This is an egregious violation of basic principles of conflict of interest. Moreover, the use of Governor House and the presence of the President is illegal use of state resources and an offence under the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance, 1999, Section 9 (a) (iv).

It is also a violation of the president’s oath, which states that: “I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions.”

A senior lawyer based in Karachi, who asked not to be named.

President Alvi blesses family business: A potential conflict of interest?

'The president must clarify'

The president is mandated by the Constitution to abide by his oath in the Third Schedule: “that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions.”

This ceremony involves a private business, but is marked with the federation’s seal (through Governor Sindh), and with the president in attendance.

Pakistan has a history of family members benefiting from their closeness to the presidency, from field marshal Ayub onwards. As someone who protested against that regime, Mr. Alvi is well-aware of this trend, and promised to fight it. He must clarify how this is not a clear conflict of interest.

Asad Rahim Khan is a lawyer based in Lahore

'Will need to dig deeper to determine conflict of interest'

As per this Constitution one of the conditions of the President's office is that he / she shall not hold any office of profit in the service of Pakistan or occupy any position carrying the right to remuneration for the rendering of services. Whilst strictly speaking it does not violate the said condition, there is a possibility of there being a conflict of interest if he is using his position to benefit either himself or his family.

What financial benefit he is directly deriving from his family business will not be important as long as he has not used his office to derive the said benefit.

Thus, in my opinion to see what the conflict is, we would have to dig deeper into the influence, if any, exercised and the benefits derived therefrom.

Maria Farooq is a lawyer based in Lahore.

'Poor judgment not conflict of interest'

Strictly legally speaking, this does not appear to be a conflict of interest.

Article 43(1) of the Constitution prohibits the President from holding any office of profit in the service of Pakistan or occupy any other position carrying the right to remuneration for the rendering of services. Furthermore the Presidential oath states that the President will not allow his personal interest to influence his official conduct or official decisions.

Since here, it is the President’s son and not the President himself who is entering into an MoU, it cannot strictly be called a conflict of interest. That said, the fact that the President chose to officially publicise the event on Twitter and that it happened at the Governor House does reflect poor judgment, if not illegality. Optically, it would have been better for the President to have distanced himself from this transaction.

Hira Jaleel is a lawyer based in Lahore.