ISLAMABAD - Assuming office as Pakistan’s 13th head of state on Sunday, Dr Arif Alvi said he will fulfil all responsibilities towards the development of the country and not be a “silent president.”
“I will play my role to improve education and health sectors of the country, (and ensure the) provision of basic facilities to the common man while remaining within the constitution’s ambit,” he said after being sworn in on Sunday.
Dr Alvi, a founding member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar in a simple yet graceful ceremony at the President House, a day after the five-year term of President Mamnoon Hussain ended.
The swearing in of the new president concluded the country’s peaceful transfer of power to its new government after a turbulent election campaign.
Alvi’s appointment further cements the ruling party’s power after the July polls, which saw former cricket champion Imran Khan elected prime minister of the country.
A father of four and enthusiastic Twitter user, he has been a key confidante of Imran Khan on both party and national issues. He served as the PTI’s secretary general for eight years from 2006, and was elected an MP from Karachi in 2013 as well as in 2018.
Dr Alvi, a dentist by profession, was elected president on September 4 by securing 352 votes from the electoral college that comprises more than a thousand lawmakers – the members of both houses of the parliament and provincial assemblies.
The swearing in of the new president was attended by the prime minister, outgoing president, governors, chief ministers, speaker and deputy speaker of National Assembly, Senate chairman, federal cabinet members, parliamentarians and Supreme Court judges.
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, all the three services chiefs, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, Saudi information minister Dr Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, diplomats, media-persons and a large number of other prominent figures were also present.
Alvi swore to “bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan” and to carry out his duties “in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan.”
Prior to oath taking, a beaming Dr Alvi clad in a black sherwani walked into the hall along with the chief justice. At the dais he was flanked by the chief justice, outgoing president and the prime minister.
The ceremony began with the usual playing of the national anthem, however the pleasant surprise came when the large gathering softly sang the lyrics in sync with the military band. It was followed by recitation of the last verse of Surah Bakra from the Holy Quran.
The chief justice administered the oath of office to the new President in Urdu. Then oath documents were signed, national anthem played again and order of the assuming of the office of the President read out.
The president’s oath taking again was a jam packed event, after the swearing in of Imran Khan as Prime Minister Imran Khan on August 18. Additional chairs had to be placed to accommodate the guests.
Later, President Dr Arif Alvi received welcoming Guard of Honor in an impressive ceremony. A smartly turned out contingent comprising all three forces presented him the Guard of Honor.
After inspection of the Guard of Honour, the President was introduced to the staff of President House. He individually shook hands with them.
The Cabinet Division also issued a notification to be published in the Gazette of Pakistan stating that “Dr Arif Alvi has, on this 09th day of September 2018, taken the oath of office as the President and assumed the office of the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”
A WONDERFUL MOMENT: COAS
Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa Sunday said democracy was flourishing in the country and would continue to get stronger with time.
Asked to comment on the swearing-in of the new head of the state, he said, “Democracy is very much flourishing and will flourish in future too.” General Bajwa termed it a “significant and wonderful moment” for the continuity of the democratic process.
US FELICITATES ALVI
The United States and the American people Sunday congratulated Dr Arif Alvi on his swearing in as the new President of Pakistan.
“The United States looks toward working with Pakistan to advance our shared interests, such as regional peace, stability, and prosperity,” said US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert in a statement.
Role of President
In Pakistan’s democratic system, the president holds a symbolic place — the entire administrative authority lies with the prime minister and the president exercises his powers upon recommendations of the prime minister.
The president has, however, constitutional powers 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 also bound under the constitution to keep the president informed on all matters of internal and foreign policy and on all legislative proposals that the federal government intends to bring before the Parliament.
Being head of the state, the president cannot interfere in administrative matters of the government but can advise the cabinet on matters of policy.
Pakistani presidents wielded greater power before 2008, when President Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of assassinated premier Benazir Bhutto, took office and devolved most of his powers to prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
Alvi’s political rise
Born in 1949, Dr Arif Alvi is a senior PTI leader who was elected to the National Assembly from Karachi’s NA-247 constituency during the July 25 polls.
His career in politics spans over five decades and began with his role in student politics as president of a student union at de’Montmorency College of Dentistry in Lahore.
Alvi was part of the student movement of 1969 during Gen Ayub Khan’s military regime and, as his party men say, was among those who fought for democracy in the country.
He was shot and wounded during a protest against the military dictator in Lahore in 1969, and he still has a bullet embedded in his right arm.
For the first time, Arif Alvi emerged as an election candidate in 1977 when he secured a Pakistan National Alliance ticket for a Sindh Assembly seat for Karachi. However, he did not take part in the elections as they were boycotted by the opposition parties.
Dr Alvi was among more than 100 candidates who were fielded by the PTI in the 1997 elections. All the aspirants, including Imran Khan, lost – most of them to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
Alvi ran in the 1997 elections from, now erstwhile, PS-114 (Clifton Karachi) but could secure only 2,000 plus votes. He contested from another constituency PS-90 (Karachi West) in the 2002 elections but received fewer votes (1,276) than his previous tally.
For a long time, Dr Alvi has remained the only known face of the party in Sindh as he dedicated his time, house and money for the party.
According to the PTI’s official website, he is one of its founding members and was the party’s secretary general from 2006 till 2013.
He was elected a member of the National Assembly for the first time from the erstwhile Clifton constituency NA-250 in the 2013 polls, which was the only NA seat won by the party in Sindh.
He was re-elected to the National Assembly from the same Clifton constituency (now called NA-247, Karachi South-II) in the July 25 general election.
After PTI’s victory and its forming the government, Arif Alvi was nominated as party’s candidate for the president slot. Thanks to the majority of PTI and her allies, he easily won the contest by defeating PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan and PML-N backed opposition candidate, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI-F.