Why Dr Arif Alvi should not be the president of Pakistan

Published: August 30, 2018
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Given his importance, one wonders why he was not appointed to a position where he could have proven to be more useful. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ DR ARIF ALVI

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Arif Alvi is one of the few politicians respected widely for his honesty and modesty. In a political party like the PTI – which mostly consists of intolerant and impulsive politicians, or people like Aamir Liaquat – Arif’s constant presence is like a calming presence for supporters.

Dr Arif has now been chosen by the PTI as their candidate for the president of Pakistan, and given the fact that the opposition has not been able to agree on one candidate yet again due to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), he will likely become another head of state. A decent and honest man who respects his staunchest critics and political opponents, Dr Arif is probably is the best person the PTI could have chosen for this position.

Dr Arif’s political journey – rising from a polling agent to being one of the founding members of the PTI to soon becoming the next president – is astounding and inspiring, and can be termed one of the finest political careers of late, marked with persistence, hard work, dedication and a never-say-die attitude.

As a founding member of PTI, he was made the president of the Sindh chapter and contested the 1997 elections on a Provincial Assembly seat from PS-114, but managed to grab only around 2,000 votes and lost the seat. He once again contested in the 2002 elections, but secured only secured 1,276 votes and lost the seat badly. For a typical power-hungry politician, this could have meant the end of the road, as not many politicians out there can continue to thrive in politics after consistently losing elections so badly. But Dr Arif persisted and continued working for his political party, alongside being a dentist in his professional life.

In 2007, his party boycotted the elections so he did not have the chance to contest polls. But it was in 2013 where he finally managed to taste the fruit of his tireless efforts. He surprised many by defeating Khushbakht Shujaat of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) from NA 250, and won the seat by grabbing over 77,000 votes. Subsequently, his strict opposition in the National Assembly and his delicate and balanced points of differences with Nawaz Sharif’s government – always expressed in gentle tones and without animosity – rightly made him a respected politician among his opponent’s ranks. Unsurprisingly, he was re-elected in the 2018 General Elections, and will soon experience another promotion, one of the highest order.

However, given his importance, one wonders why he was not appointed the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, where he could have proven to be more useful by keeping an effective check on the corrupt practices in the institutions. Did the PTI simply not have anyone else within the party, who it feels could become the symbol of the federation and represent the country in a graceful manner?

At the moment, the position of the president is only symbolic, with the head having virtually no role in decision-making. While the prime minister holds the power and interest of the people, all the president has to do is sign recommendations sent by the PM Office, or hoist the national flag on official ceremonies. Given the lack of importance of the role altogether, it would perhaps have been a wise political move had PTI nominated someone else for this position and kept Dr Arif for a serious role, where he could actually wield some power and do some good. He could have easily been made the interior minister, or perhaps even the minister for health, given his past role as the president of the Pakistan Dental Association.

Since Dr Arif belongs to the breed of politicians who do not get into politics for personal gains and never ask anything for themselves, the PTI government could really utilise an honest and competent man like him in a ministry that matters. Thus far, we are watching the same old breed of power-hungry politicians joining the ranks of the PTI and getting powerful ministries and advisory roles for themselves. In a true ‘Naya Pakistan’, this would not be the case.

It is evident that the path for Dr Arif to assume this position is clear. The opposition posed a legitimate challenge earlier, but since the emergence of a divide over the nomination of Aitzaz Ahsan and the decision to nominate Maulana Fazlur Rehman as well, it is clear that once again, the opposition does not stand a chance. This divide will only help PTI and Dr Arif to secure more votes from the assemblies and the Senate. If the game is winning the presidential elections as well, PTI has almost won it, with September 4th only serving as a formality. The PPP’s role in this decision must not be undermined, and perhaps Dr Arif should thank Asif Ali Zardari’s party and its last-minute decision to ditch its allies.

For the opposition, this will be yet another loss in what has been a defeating election year. For Dr Arif, it will surely be a moment of great pride, as years of struggle finally pay-off and he receives his reward. For PTI, it means gaining a professional representative for the head of state, but losing a competent man to a ceremonial position. For the nation, however, it deprives the voters of a man they elected to represent them. Whether his son Awab Alvi will carry his legacy or not remains to be seen, and whether the PTI will be able to win the NA-247 seat once again in the by-election remains a question. What is not questionable at all is that a seasoned and competent parliamentarian is being wasted on a position not important or big enough for him to actually make a difference.

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar

The writer is a columnist and writes for various English and Urdu publications. He tweets at @rjimad (twitter.com/rjimad)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.