Arif Alvi, presidential candidate from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party, makes a victory sign upon arrival at parliament in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. Image Credit: AP/PTI

ISLAMABAD: Though Pakistan’s president by and large is considered a ceremonial figure and has nothing much to do with regard to running the day-to-day affairs of the government or making decisions in important matters, yet the honour attached to being ‘head of the state’ is something many in the country long for.

After his election as 13th President of the country, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) candidate and MNA from Karachi Dr Arif Alvi promised to the nation that he would turn the office of the president into an active and lively people-friendly office.

The statement has been received well and is largely seen in the backdrop of the legendary ‘inactiveness’ displayed by Alvi’s predecessor President Mamnoon Hussain in delegating powers during his five-year career.

Dr Alvi has underlined that he would strive to resolve issues like water scarcity, delay in justice, health, education, unemployment, climate challenges and provision of basic amenities to the poor of Pakistan and would be the president of Pakistan and not of a single party.

However, how he plans to do that remains a big question mark.

Since Dr Alvi himself has said that he will not belong to one party after becoming president, it would be difficult for him to ask PPP for something that is purely the party’s domain.

According to the constitutional experts, Dr Alvi will have to keep the office dignified and not indulge in any purely political issue. Politics is the job of the prime minister and the parliament and thus it should be left to them.

The office of the president of the country was once active and considered the centre of all powers when Article 58(2)b existed, they said.

However, 11th President of the country Asif Ali Zardari voluntarily withdrew those powers and his government introduced 18th Amendment on April 19, 2010 that did away with the controversial clause of the constitution thus stripping the president of the powers to dissolve assemblies.

After Zardari, President Mamnoon Hussain the 12th President of the country and a PML-N’s man assumed an office that was actively and politically run by Zardari and quietly surrendered all his powers and those of the august office to the Prime Minister’s discretion.

He remained literally on the beck and call of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who after all had put him on the highest pedestal.

Hussain’s main tasks in a year used to be addressing the Parliament at the beginning of new parliamentary year; bestowing of medals and national honours on noted personalities on Pakistan Day; receiving foreign dignitaries, new ambassadors and high commissioners and delivering speeches as chief guest.

Sometimes it appeared that Hussain literally remained off the radar for months and it was rumoured he was forbidden by the then PML-N President and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to give any statement or seek media coverage.

Talking to Gulf News, founder president of Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA) and Chairman of PTI Judicial Reforms Commission Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan Chaudhry Ashraf Gujjar was of the view that president being a symbol of federation and elected by all national and provincial elected houses can play active role in all the provinces and federally-administered areas of the country.

President Alvi can grant pardon and commute sentences. Not only can he appoint Chief Justice and judges of the Supreme and high courts, he may also seek opinion of SC in matters of public importance and transfer a high court judge from one province to other.

Dr Arif despite being a symbolic figure will still have an important role to play and can turn the office of the president into an active and productive institution, said Ashraf Gujjar.

A senior journalist and environmentalist based in Islamabad, Munir Ahmed said the nation had great hopes and expectations from Dr Alvi. He is a vocal person and understands problems at grassroot level. He can address issues in climate change, art, culture, education and health sectors. Munir said former president Farooq Laghari used to do that and had direct interaction with various cross-sections of society and listened to people’s problems.