Opinion
Friday Apr 22 2022
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President Alvi, what will be your legacy?

President Arif Alvi speaks during the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan on March 25, 2021. — Reuters/File
President Arif Alvi speaks during the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan on March 25, 2021. — Reuters/File 

In a now-historic scene from March 2008, the parliamentary leaders of the PPP and PML-N coalition government are present at the Aiwan-e-Sadar to take oath from the then president of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf. Regardless of political differences, Musharraf swore in the newly-elected government members without any hesitation. However, ministers wore black armbands at the ceremony to record their protest within constitutional limits.

The PTI, headed by former cricketer Imran Khan, emerged as the third-largest political party in the presence of two traditional political parties on the eve of the 2013 national elections. Imran Khan, during the election campaign, had said that if the elected prime minister, he would not take oath from PPP co-chairman and then-president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari.

However, Nawaz Sharif won the majority and once again a swearing-in ceremony was held at the Aiwan-e-Sadr where president Zardari, fulfilling his constitutional responsibilities, administered the oath to the newly-elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

When Imran Khan was elected as prime minister in the 2018 elections, the late president Mamnoon Hussain, nominated by the PML-N, was present in the Aiwan-e-Sadr. President Mamnoon, facing pressure from some circles to not give an oath, was of the view that the highest office of the state must not be misused to create a crisis in the country or to obstruct the oath of political opponents.

BBC Urdu has recently reported that when former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was imprisoned in Adiala Jail at that time, was approached for his opinion, he also supported the stance of the then-president. “I would never want political differences to take precedence over constitution, law and democracy,” Nawaz had stated, emphasising that “I am not in favour of Mamnoon's resignation nor do I want anyone to be denied the oath.

Mamnoon Hussain, thus, did not put any obstacle in the way of Imran Khan's swearing-in but hosted the oath-taking ceremony in a pleasant atmosphere. Later, when the transfer of the highest office of the state to PTI Secretary General Dr Arif Alvi occurred, Mamnoon Hussain cooperated in every possible way with all dignity. He also ensured his participation in the swearing-in ceremony of President Alvi.

Shehbaz Sharif has been elected Leader of the House as a result of a parliamentary process. Unfortunately, President Alvi excused himself from conducting the oath-taking process for Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. After the formation of the federal cabinet, the president of Pakistan once again fell ill and was unable to fulfil his constitutional responsibilities.

Similarly, the governor of Punjab, nominated by the ousted PTI government, refused to take oath from the newly-elected chief minister of Punjab. The PM has sent a summary to President Alvi to remove the governor for not fulfilling his constitutional responsibilities but there has been no cooperation so far.

In my view, when somebody assumes a government position, he/she is entrusted with important responsibilities of the state. No one should run away from constitutional responsibilities due to personal bias or political affiliations. Such an undesirable situation not only creates a crisis and insurgency in the country but also makes government positions controversial. Such undemocratic moves also damage the reputation of our beloved country in the eyes of the international community.

Dr Arif Alvi should recall the words of his oath at the time of becoming president: “…I will preserve, protect and defend the constitution…I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions… in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will…”

My sincere advice to President Alvi, since he is a sensible and wise person, is that he should have a correct understanding of the changing political scenario. The right decision at this critical time will help him leave behind a better legacy because history forgives no one.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council. He tweets @RVankwani

Originally published in The News