Amid boycott and protests, the country’s legislative bodies – the National and Provincial Assemblies and the Senate – went ahead with electing a new President and, as expected, the PML-N candidate Syed Mamnoon Hussain scored a resounding victory. Mr Hussain bagged 432 votes against 77 secured by Justice (r) Wajihuddin Ahmed, whose candidature was put up by the PTI. These two candidates were left in the field after the PPP boycotted and its candidate Senator Raza Rabbani withdrew from the race.

It is a pity that an irritant in the form of advancing the date of election has left a bad taste in the mouth. It is a bad start for the PML-N government facing the multiple challenges Pakistan is currently up against. The issue could easily have been sorted out had the PPP and the PTI, which had also put forward their candidates, been consulted by the government before approaching the Election Commission with the plea that the schedule of election be changed from August 6 to July 30. And again, when the Supreme Court did not seek the opinion of all parties who would be affected by its decision to hear the request of PML-N leader Raja Zafarul Haq.

According to the relevant constitutional provisions, there is a bar on electing a new President 60 days before the end of the incumbent President’s term, or 30 days after it has ended. That afforded enough room for the election to be held after the Eid holidays. The argument that a large number of electors would either be performing umra or sitting in aitkaaf on August 6 would not have been used as an unjustifiable excuse. August 6 happens to fall during the last ten days of Ramazan, when all of Pakistan is at work. Why should parliamentarians not be? The push to delay the once in five years procedure, by saying it clashed with a yearly optional religious exercise, is a poor example set by our law makers. No one would have had the excuse of boycotting the election either, on the grounds that they were left with little time to do canvassing for their candidates, had the election been held after the Eid.

Mr Hussain’s election being a certainty even if the boycott had not taken place, wisdom now demands that the opposition parties look ahead and not back and join hands with the government to solve the crises the country is faced with. The President-elect has vowed to be a ‘true symbol of the federation’ and promised to be neutral, giving up his membership of the PML-N in the process. Let us hope that he acts as such,and does not give any cause of complaint to the opposition, nor besmirch the office he holds with any partisan behaviour.