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The ticklish history and process of electing Pakistan’s President

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Muhammad Zahid Rifat |

Pakistan is electing its 16th President on the 4th of September, 2018 as the incumbent Head of the State Mamnoon Hussain is stepping down around that date on completion of his stipulated constitutional tenure of five years. Election of the new President comes in the wake of holding  general election on July 25 in a free, fair, transparent and orderly manner, formation of the new National and Provincial Assemblies and formation of the new Federal and Provincial Governments as the democratic process, howsoever fragile it may be, is continuing despite all odds, ups, and downs.

Non-Muslims living in Pakistan can reach any high office in the country except that of the President. According to the Constitution, there shall a President of Pakistan who shall be the Head of State and shall represent  the unity of the Republic, a person shall not be qualified for election as President unless he is a Muslim of not less than 45 years of age and is qualified to be elected as member of the National Assembly.

New ruling party at the federal level Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan was first to name Dr. Arif Alvi as its candidate. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) headed by Chairman Bilawal B. Zardari followed by naming an old guard Ch Aitzaz Ahsan as its candidate and opposition parties alliance headed by Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz  (PML-N) has fielded Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s own faction head Maulana Fazlur Rehman as its candidate.

The president of Pakistan is elected in a secret ballot by the two chambers of the national parliament (the National Assembly and Senate) and the four provincial assemblies. Members of the two Houses of the Parliament i.e. the Senate and National Assembly and of the Provincial Assemblies of the Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pukhtoonkhwah, and Balochistan, including non-Muslim and women members, for the electoral college, will vote for the President through secret balloting.

What is the Electoral College?

The President of Pakistan is indirectly elected by the Electoral College of Pakistan a joint sitting of the Senate, National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies.

Counting of the votes so the cast is a bit ticklish. According to the Constitution, the number of votes cast in the Parliament in favour of each candidate shall be counted and the number of votes cast in a Provincial Assembly in favour of each candidate  shall be multiplied  by the total number of  seats in the Provincial Assembly for the time being  having the smallest number of seats and divided by the total number of seats  in the Provincial Assembly, in which the votes have been cast and the number of votes calculated in the manner as prescribed in the Provincial Assembly shall be added to the number of votes  cast and counted in the two Houses of the Parliament.

Read more: PML-N may support Aitzaz Ahsan, only if he apologizes to Nawaz:…

Polling will be conducted on following four places:

  • Parliament House at Islamabad
  • Punjab Provincial Assembly at Lahore
  • Sindh Provincial Assembly at Karachi
  • KPK Provincial Assembly at Peshawar
  • Baluchistan Provincial Assembly at Quetta

Members of Senate and National Assembly will cast their vote at Parliment House whereas members Provincial Assemblies will cast their vote at respective assemblies.

According to the latest information, as of August 27 afternoon, there are three candidates for the top slot of the President of Pakistan. New ruling party at the federal level Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan was first to name Dr. Arif Alvi as its candidate. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) headed by Chairman Bilawal B. Zardari followed by naming an old guard Ch Aitzaz Ahsan as its candidate and opposition parties alliance headed by Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz  (PML-N) has fielded Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s own faction head Maulana Fazlur Rehman as its candidate.

The Quaid-i-Azam, who could not live longer because of his failing health, was followed by three Governors-General in Khwaja Nazimuddin, Malik Ghulam Muhammad and Major General Iskander Ali Mirza.

Despite last minute concerted efforts, opposition parties could not finalize name of a consensus candidate. PML(N) had reservations against Ch Aitzaz Ahsan and PPP leadership did not budge from its stance and stuck to retain its candidate as already named. This division in the opposition parties camp will obviously benefit ruling party PTI to have smooth sailing in getting its candidate Dr. Arif Alvi as the new President.

But still, the ruling and opposition parties are making last ditched efforts individually and collectively to muster maximum support for their respective candidates. Statistically and historically speaking, the candidate who will be victorious, out of the three, in the run on September 4 will be the 16th President of the country including four Chief Martial Law Administrators/Presidents and three acting Presidents.

Read more: Opposition fields Maulan Fazal-ur-Rehman for President

Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the first Governor General of the newly created Pakistan representing the British monarch as the Head of the State as Pakistan had remained a  Dominion till it had become a Republic and had formulated its own Constitution on March 23, 1956. The date coincided with the passage of the historic Lahore Resolution at the then Minto Park on this date in 1940 of the All India Muslim League meeting held under the presidentship of the Quaid-i-Azam.

The Quaid-i-Azam, who could not live longer because of his failing health, was followed by three Governors-General in Khwaja Nazimuddin, Malik Ghulam Muhammad and Major General Iskander Ali Mirza. Major General Iskander Ali Mirza was last of the four Governors-General of the newly born country and also became the first President when Pakistan became the Republic.

Muhammad Mian Soomro as the Senate Chairman had become acting President for the intervening period of General Pervez Musharraf stepping down as the President in August 2008 and Asif Ali Zardari being elected as the President in September 2008

He was followed for varying periods 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 besides Wasim Sajjad who became acting President twice and Muhammadmian Soomro.

Needless to mention that Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan, General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, General Muhammad Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf were the four military dictators who had assumed power as the Army Chiefs except for General Yahya Khan who had seized power from Ayub Khan. As a matter of fact, the Senate Chairman was to officiate as the President whenever such a situation arose that there was no President and the office had fallen vacant.

Read more: Will PPP support Maulana Fazlur Rehman to become President?

Ghulam Ishaq Khan as the Senate Chairman had become the acting President in August 1988 when President General Ziaul Haq had perished in a C-130 plane crash near Bahawalpur on August 17, 1988, along with several others including Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Akhtar and US Ambassador Raphael. He was then duly elected as the President couple of months later.

Wasim Sajjad as the Chairman Senate  had become acting President first  when President Ghulam Ishaq Khan had resigned in July  1993 following  very serious differences with the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif  (both the incumbent President and the Prime Minister had almost simultaneously resigned  following the arrangement worked out by the concerned high quarters) and secondly when President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari had also stepped down  without completing his tenure in December 1997.

Read more: Electables: Biggest impediment to change in Pakistan

Muhammad Mian Soomro as the Senate Chairman had become acting President for the intervening period of General Pervez Musharraf stepping down as the President in August 2008 and Asif Ali Zardari being elected as the President in September 2008. The 15th National Assembly formed as an outcome of July 25 general election had elected PTI Chairman Imran Khan as the 22nd Prime Minister and now the newly constituted central legislature will be elected 16th President on September 4, 2018, as these development are taking place in quick succession to each other.

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.