On September 04, 2018, Dr. Arif Alvi was elected President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. According to Aitzaz Ahsan he is the 9th head of state as the four usurpers do not qualify. Dr. Alvi started his political activism against Ayub Khan the first Khaki dictator. Karachi the founding and real capital of the new land never accepted the hegemony of dictatorship. It was here that Madr-e-Millat Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah not only challenged the dictator in the 1965 elections she prevailed in Karachi and shattered the myth of the invincibility of the general.
It seems the Ayub, Zia, Musharraf era is finally coming to an end with the victory of a political activist from the city of Quaid. After the terror networks of MQM were dismantled, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has emerged as a major political force by winning 14 national Assembly seats from the metropolis in 2018 elections. Though PTI succeeded in denting the infamous Takht-e-Lahore, yet the PML-N strangle hold continues on the city of Iqbal. The Prime Minister (PM) is a son of Lahore but he spends very little time here. He has demolished and then rebuilt his ancestral house in Zaman Park. His choice of Chief Minister (CM) of the largest and most important province of the country has also been questioned. Though Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) called Lahore the Leningrad (St Petersburg) of Asia, the extended rule of the Sharif brothers has taken away the shine from the heart of Pakistan.
With a political activist from Karachi as the President and the PM and leader of the opposition in Sindh Assembly (Firdaus Shamim Naqvi) from PTI, the game has changed. The neglect of the largest city of the country will now come to an end. Karachi is the commercial hub of Pakistan, its rise will lift the economy of the country. Good times are around the corner. Mamnoon Hussain the outgoing President also hailed from the city of Quaid but lacked political credentials. Once he leaves the Presidency no one will remember him. During the oath taking of the PM, I observed he did not shake hands with the Kaptaan and sat there with a grim face.
Before the elections in 2013, I was sitting with a group of senior, retired Army officers at the Defence Club. Chances of PTI victory in elections came up for discussion. One of them who later joined the party to contest the elections made an interesting comment. According to him people like Dr. Arif Alvi could never win elections. I was surprised by his statement and asked him ‘Why’? He then narrated an interesting incident. According to him one of the local party workers went for dental treatment to Dr. Alvi’s clinic. Alvi Sahib told him that the cost of treatment was Rs. 100,000/= but as a party worker he would get 20% discount. Such individuals could be good doctors but cannot win votes. This is the kind of thinking we want to change was my spontaneous reaction. Dr. Alvi is not CMH, he has a private practice and has to pay his bills. For him politics is not a profession, he desires to serve his constituency. My remarks were not taken well but Dr. Alvi won two elections (2013, 208) to represent the people of Karachi and finally made it to the Presidency with a clean record of service to them.
Though my father had established his business office in Karachi soon after partition, I had the chance of going there in October 1958. At the age of five I boarded the train from Lahore together with my mother and sisters. Iskander Mirza was the President but by the time we reached Karachi, Ayub Khan had taken over. There was tension and confusion in the city. Businessmen were deeply perturbed. With the elections around the corner under the 1956 constitution, Pakistan was at the take off stage to become the first Asian tiger ahead of Japan, Korea, China and Malaysia. Ayub Khan changed the direction from nation to empire building. Till date Pakistan has not fully recovered from this misadventure. Attempts at recovery and re-alignment have been repeatedly thwarted. I agree with Aitzaz Ahsan that the four usurpers should be deleted from the list of the head of states and Dr. Arif Alvi should be declared the 9th president of the republic instead of 13th to send a clear message.
Karachi has always rejected dictators and usurpers. As President Ayub Khan could never garner support in the metropolis despite his heavy handedness. When the usurper wanted to enter Karachi for the first time as President he was not sure of the public response. He arrived at Malir Cantonment first and then with the support of the Khakis and the Police he entered the city of the Quaid to take over the reins of the country. Fearing resistance he decided to move the capital near his seat of power, the GHQ in Rawalpindi. It was the beginning of the end for Quaid’s Pakistan. Till today there is a sizeable number of Bengalis living in Karachi as it is easily accessible to them.
A resurgent Karachi will bring back the lights, for which the city was once famous. ‘Naya Pakistan’ is in fact the original ‘Quaid’s Pakistan’, a vibrant, literate metropolis where nation building has always been taken seriously, despite the encroachments on civillian authority. Karachi will rise again from the ashes of dictators and their leftovers. Dr. Arif Alvi and his Kaptaan will team up to build Pakistan from where the journey was disrupted. Restored Karachi will pay a pivotal role in building ‘Naya Pakistan’ a prosperous welfare state as envisioned by Jinnah the most important son of the city.
The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation.