In pursuant to article 41 of the constitution, the head of the state is the president, who is to represent the unity of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The definitions of “the state” and “the republic” find mention in articles 7 and 1. Read conjointly, he is to be the representative of the federal government, provincial governments, local governments, and territorial parts of the country. He is not to give the impression that he represents a sole political party or he comes from a certain city or a town.
A delicate duty indeed! He is the fountainhead of power on paper. Constitutionally, the prime minister is to draw powers from him. The moment a president takes an oath, he is to move past his interests and prejudices.
It is the best of the times. It is the worst of times. It is the age of wisdom. It is the age of foolishness. There is a dentist with grey hair. Bespectacled, he has a honeyed voice. He often wears a smile on his face. He rose from humble beginnings to become the president of the country. As a ceremonious head of the country, he has not had much say in how the country could be run.
Let’s revisit Arif Alvi’s stint as the president and see whether he fulfilled his obligations arising from his constitutional oath.
Since Imran Khan was averse to attend the National Assembly and PTI refrained from tabling drafts of laws in the parliament, the president’s power to issue ordinances under article 89 of the constitution was stretched to its limits; short-circuiting the normal lawmaking process envisaged by the constitution. President issued one ordinance after another. All in all, there were 51 ordinances. It was only when a two-member bench headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa disapproved of this practice and held that the presidential ordinances could only be promulgated in ‘emergent matters’ and when the parliament was not in session did the president stop.
It was only when a two-member bench headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa disapproved of this practice and held that the presidential ordinances could only be promulgated in ‘emergent matters’ and when the parliament was not in session did the president stop.
The false, frivolous and vexatious reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa was conceived and cooked up by the former Law Minister Farogh Naseem with the connivance of the head of Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) Mirza Shahzad Akbar. Under article 209 of the constitution, the president is to first satisfy himself about the authenticity of the allegation(s) levelled at a judge and then to arrive at an informed opinion before sending the reference to the Supreme Judicial Council. Alas, this wasn’t to be. Without the application of an independent mind and without realizing that it would open a can of worms, Arif Alvi rubber-stamped the presidential reference, sending it to the Supreme Judicial Council. Justice Qazi didn’t take things lying down.
Now that Imran Khan is voted out of power and there is no love lost between him and the deep state, he admitted that it was a mistake to file the reference against Justice Isa, and it was done on the insistence of former law Minister Farogh Naseem. Naseem refused to share the blame and shifted it back on to Khan.
In November 2021, Dr Awab Alvi, the president’s son, while acting at the behest of his family firm, Alvi Dental entered into an agreement with an American dentist firm, Bringing Smiles for a hefty sum of Rs4.4billion. The signing ceremony took place in the Sindh Governor House, while the president was in attendance. Later, the president was all praise for his son on his Twitter handle. It was a display of blatant conflict of interest. The presidential oath in the Third Schedule to the constitution staes: “I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions”.
As president, Alvi overstepped his authority to dissolve the National Assembly and to declare general elections on the advice of the deposed prime minister, Imran Khan, knowing well that going by article 58 of the constitution, it was not within the latter’s authority to do so, as he was facing a vote of no-confidence. Yet another time, he faced humiliation for following Khan’s dictates after the SC declared null and void the ruling of the deputy speaker, as also the action of dissolution of the National Assembly and holding of general elections.
As president, Alvi overstepped his authority to dissolve the National Assembly and to declare general elections on the advice of the deposed prime minister, Imran Khan, knowing well that going by article 58 of the constitution, it was not within the latter’s authority to do so, as he was facing a vote of no-confidence.
Further, Arif Alvi circumvented his presidential duties imposed on him by the constitution by feigning illness when he was to administer the oath to Shebaz Sharif and the new cabinet members. Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjarani had to do the needful.
Following in Alvi’s footsteps, Governor Punjab Umar Sarfraz Cheema refused to administer the oath to the Chief Minister-elect Hamza Shebaz, who then moved the Lahore High Court. In pursuance of the court order, Sanjarani was appointed by the Alvi under article 104 to perform the function in place of the governor. Interestingly, at the time of writing, chairman Senate is still awaiting instructions from the president.
Arif Alvi honoured his constitutional oath more in the breach than the observance. He spared no effort to bend the constitution to Khan’s will. Lord Acton was right when he said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. It is high time that Arif Alvi tendered his resignation.
The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He tweets @zaeem8825. He can be contacted at email@example.com.