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National News
September 04,2018

Significance of presidential election

Mazhar Abbas

The presidential election, definitely, has a lot of significance, though the powers of president had drastically been slashed in the post-58-2(B) scenario and the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. That’s why, today's election has generated visible political activities in the country.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate, Dr Arif Alvi, who has every chance to win the election, intends to play a more pro-active role compared with his predecessor, Mamnoon Hussain. "I will neither be Asif Ali Zardari nor Mamnoon Hussain," he told the writer, as he looked confident of winning the polls today. Election has become a one-sided affair due to division in the opposition parties on the nomination of Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP's) leader Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan. Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) has rejected his name and brought a joint opposition candidate minus PPP, Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

With a strong electoral college comprising voters from National Assembly, Senate and all four provincial assemblies, the PTI is the only national party, which has votes in all four provincial assemblies as well as National Assembly and Senate. Each assembly will have 65 votes, as per Balochistan Assembly’s number of parliamentarians, which has the smallest number of MPAs i.e. 65.

The election could have been more interesting and closely contested had the opposition been united and won the support of Independents. That did not happen and, like in the elections of the Senate chairman, prime minister and now in the presidential election, the opposition parties are on 'different pages’.

This, in itself, has given a political edge and boost to the PTI and PM Imran Khan. Despite internal problems and indecision in some cases, the government is not facing any serious challenge from the 'divided opposition’.

Presidential election has become significant as even in the post-election scenario, the opposition, particularly the PML-N and PPP's differences are likely to aggravate further. Though, some last-minute efforts are under way to bring unity among the opposition parties, chances of Dr Arif Alvi's defeat are almost nil.

It is not difficult to understand as to why the PPP or rather former president Asif Ali Zardari did not show 'flexibility’ in its stance and like what he did in the chairman Senate election, he did the same in presidential election, at least, this is what the situation on ground stands.

Now, it’s just a walkover for veteran PTI leader from Karachi, who will replace Mamnoon Hussain of the PML-N, who was also from Karachi, unless something dramatic happens just before polling.

However, for the PTI and Prime Minister Imran Khan, it will be yet another milestone as for the first time party would also have its nominee as head of the state and this will complete the parliamentary setup after July-25 elections.

The PTI and its coalition partners are now all powerful at the Centre and in three provinces, except for Sindh.

This in itself give some hope to possible president-in-making Dr Arif Alvi to look for more pro-active role of the president than his predecessor, PML-N’s Mamnoon Hussain. While he himself believes that once elected he will not be the president of PTI, but, President of Pakistan, a symbol of federation and intend to take all parties along.

From the power of pardon, appellate in the case of Federal and Tax Ombudsman, Dr Arif Alvi, also believes that the president also supposed to see any proposed legislation before it is sent to the National Assembly and can give his input to the law ministry. There are some other areas as well, in which the future president see the role of the president.

However, he hinted that even in the case of some sensitive nature in 'pardon’, he will seek chief executive and government guidelines, a reference to the case of Indian spy Kulbhushan.

He said he would resign from the PTI once elected, but still believes that in case of any extraordinary situation, he would consult the prime minister on the party matters, but would not be attending any party or Parliamentary party meetings. "President and governors are suppose to be the representative of the Federation and not the party, they belong to," he added.

While in Parliamentary democracy, president has limited powers, but after 1977 martial law, the military dictator, General Ziaul Haq had introduced 58-2(B) in the Constitution, which had given power to the president to remove the prime minister and dissolve the National Assembly.

For Zia's cronies and supporters of Presidential Form of government, 58-2-(B) brought a balance of power, but on ground it made democracy completely dysfunctional. While Zia sacked his own hand-picked Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo, his successor, Ghulam Ishaq Khan sacked two PPP and one PML-N government and, as a result, no government completed its term in office till elections were held in 2008.

Thus, it seems as Dr Alvi, a dentist by profession, has already worked out his plan in the light of the limited powers assigned for the president in the Constitution. He believes that the president can still play an active role even in giving suggestions on legislation.

Former president Asif Ali Zardari was an active president despite handing over his powers to the parliament as he was also the Co-chairman of the PPP.

After today's election, Prime Minister Imran Khan would further tighten his grip as his government now looks more powerful and in control over state institutions. The combination of Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi looked ideal for both.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang.

Twitter: MazharAbbasGEO


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