Muhammad Zahid Rifat |
New President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi has assumed the highest office of Pakistan on September 9, 2018 for a period of five years after taking oath at a ceremony held at the Presidency in Islamabad strongly indicating continuation of democratic process and reiteration of full commitment and support to persisting democracy in the country by the army. Before going any further, it is pertinent to mention here that the constitutional office of the Head of the State of Pakistan had remained vacant for 13 hours on September 9, 2018 as there was no occupant of the Presidency in Islamabad during these hours.
President Mamnoon Hussain on completion of his constitutional tenure of five years had vacated the Presidency around midnight of Saturday along with his wife Mahmooda Mamnoon Hussain and other family members after being given a farewell guard of honour of smartly turned out contingent of the armed forces. Dr Arif Alvi, who was elected on September 4, 2018 as the new President, took oath of his office only after 1 p.m. on Sunday at the hands of Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saquib Nisar in the presence of former President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Senate Chairman, Speaker of the National Assembly Governors and Chief Ministers of the four provinces, federal ministers and armed forces chiefs among other.
The President also will on the advice of the Prime Minister appoint the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of the Naval Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff.
The constitutional offices of the President of the country and the Governors of the provinces are not supposed to remain vacant even for the shortest possible time. Acting President or the acting Governor of one or the other province must assume the responsibilities of the offices, as the case may be, when there is no President or no Governor of a province. Chairman of the Senate has to assume the office as the acting President and Speakers of the Provincial Assemblies become acting Governor of one or the other province without taking oath in accordance with the provisions of the 18th Constitutional Amendment.
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Such a situation of ignorance of constitutional requirements which has, somehow, gone unnoticed by many around should have been avoided by all those concerned with the oath taking of the new President after the former incumbent President had left the Presidency and there should not have been gap of 13 hours as such. Dr. Arif Alvi, dental surgeon cum politician from Karachi, is the 13th President of Pakistan. As a nominee of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI), he had defeated PML (N) and other opposition parties candidate Maulana Fazlur Rahman and PPP”s candidate Aitzaz Ahsan in the electoral battle for the Presidency with an appreciable majority on September 4, 2018.
Pakistan on coming into existence on august 14, 1947 was firstly governed by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Khwaja Nazimuddin, Malik Ghulam Muhammad and Major General Iskander Ali Mirza as the Governors General representing the British crown as head of state till it adopted its own Constitution and became a republic on March 23, 1956.
It is pertinent to mention here that the constitutional office of the Head of the State of Pakistan had remained vacant for 13 hours on September 9, 2018 as there was no occupant of the Presidency in Islamabad during these hours.
Following this much awaited welcome development, Major General Iskandar Ali Mirza had become the first President of Pakistan. He had thus earned the distinction of being the Last of the Governor General and first Head of the State as the President. He was followed by General turned Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan, General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Fazal Elahi Chaudhry, General Muhammad Ziaul Haq, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Sardar Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari, Justice (retd) Muhammad Rafiq Tarar, General Pervez Musharraf, Asif Ali Zardari and Mamnoon Hussain who were the Presidents of Pakistan from March 23, 1956 till September 8,2018 respectively.
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They were in the office for varying long and short periods but Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan, General Muhammad Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf held the highest office of the land for eleven years, ten years and eight years respectively despite the fact that stipulated tenure of the President according to the 1973 Constitution is five years.
Fazal Elahi Chaudhry was first one who had completed his constitutional tenure of five years despite the civilian government of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto being overthrown by Chief of Army Staff General Muhammad Ziaul Haq and assuming the power as the Chief Martial Law Administrator. In pursuance of continuation of democratic process, Presidents Asif Ali Zardari and Mamnoon Hussain had also completed their constitutional stipulated period of five years each.
Chairman of the Senate has to assume the office as the acting President and Speakers of the Provincial Assemblies become acting Governor of one or the other province without taking oath in accordance with the provisions of the 18th Constitutional Amendment.
If the acting Presidents are also counted besides the above-mentioned civilian Presidents and military rulers who retained, the President’s office while retaining khaki uniform after assuming the power, then Dr Arif Alvi is 16th head of the State of Pakistan. Senate Chairman Wasim Sajjad had acted twice as the acting President and Senate Chairman Muhammadmian Soomro once between 1988 to 2008 when the office of the President had fallen vacant due to varying reasons and factors.
As Dr. Arif Alvi was inducted into the highest office of the land, there was discussion in some circles that he is just a figure head as Head of the Federation. This is true to some extent and also not true. The President so elected by the electoral college and duly inducted in the office after taking oath is the Head of the State; represents the unity of the Republic; has power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority; the Prime Minister is bound by the Constitution to keep the President informed on all matters of internal and foreign policy and on all legislative proposals the Federal Government intends to bring before the Parliament; the Federal Government will have control and command of the Armed Forces, the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces will vest in the President,the President as per law has power to raise and maintain the Military, Naval and Air Forces of Pakistan, the reserves of such Forces, grant Commissions in such Forces: the President also will on the advice of the Prime Minister appoint the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of the Naval Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff.
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More importantly, the President also has the power to dissolve the National as advised by the Prime Minister and also may dissolve the National Assembly in his discretion where, a vote of no-confidence having been passed against the Prime Minister, no other member of the National Assembly commands the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly.
If one reads the 1973 Constitution, which is the longest surviving constitution of Pakistan, there is lot to know and only after going through the Green Book as such, one should speak on any aspect which is so covered by the Constitution and avoid creating confusion in any manner by presenting half truths as such, please.
The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist, and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.