Who’ll be the new President?

IN continuation of democratic process, weak and fragile it may be, general elections have been held in the country in a free, fair, transparent and orderly manner on July 25, 2018 with the continued blessings of Almighty Allah. Resultantly, new National and Provincial; Assemblies have been constituted for constitutional tenure of five years, new governments have been elected at the federal and provincial levels, PTI Chairman Imran Khan has assumed the top slot as the 22nd Prime Minister and Provincial Chief Ministers in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta have also assumed their offices accordingly.
Next stage is the election of the new President as the incumbent President Mamnoon Hussain is about to step down on completion of his constitutional tenure in the first week of September 2018.. Election of the new President, as per schedule already announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan, is all set to take place on September 4, 2018. Members of the Senate, newly constituted National Assembly as well as Provincial Assemblies of the Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan form the Electoral College for the presidential election and they will be casting their votes in secret balloting.
Ruling party PTI was first to name Dr Arif Alvi as its candidate for contesting the presidential election. PPP followed the case by naming veteran party leader Ch Aitzaz Ahsan as its candidate for the top slot. Former ruling party PML-N, now headed by Shahbaz Sharif as a successor to his disqualified Prime Minister and convicted elder brother Nawaz Sharif, did not waste a moment and voiced its serious reservations about PPP nominee Ch Aitzaz Ahsan though the opposition parties while continuing to cry foul about the alleged rigging in the election have been trying to forge unity in their ranks and put up a consensus candidate for the office of the President of Pakistan.
Failing in reaching consensus on a unanimous candidate, per force PML-N named Maulana Fazlur Rehman as its and other opposition parties joint candidate to the great delight of chief of JUI own faction who over the years has not wasted any opportunity to be in the corridors of powers one way or the other.
PPP Vice-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari while sticking on Ch Aitzaz Ahsan as party candidate retaliated by questioning the character of Maulana Fazlur Rehman. The ruling party as well as divided opposition parties while still trying to reach consensus on a unanimous candidate are trying their level best to muster support to the maximum extent for their respective candidates and reaching out the smaller parties and the independents to ensure they have enough strength to emerge victorious in the number of game.
As things stand, there are three candidates in the field for contesting the office of the President of Pakistan. PTI’s Dr Arif Alvi, PPP’s Ch Aitzaz Ahsan and PML-N and other opposition parties candidate Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Quite obviously, division in the opposition camp will surely benefit the ruling party provided its leadership keeps close eyes on the developments taking place and takes full advantage from the prevailing situation.
As every single vote counts a lot in the ensuing number game, PTI Senator Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar has put off till after casting his vote for Dr Arif Alvi on September 4 his oath as the Governor Punjab for which he has already been nominated by the party Chairman Prime Minister Imran Khan. It may be mentioned here that on coming into existence as an independent sovereign State on August 14, 1947, Pakistan had the Governor General as the Head of the State representing the British monarch as a Dominion till it had its own Constitution and became the Republic.
Accordingly, Founder of the Nation Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the first Governor General. However, he had not lived longer due to failing health and held the post till his demise on September 11, 1948 about 13 months after Pakistan had come into existence. The Quaid-i-Azam was followed by Khwaja Nazimuddin, Malik Ghulam Muhammad, who also did not keep good health and Major General Iskander Mirza as the three Governors General. Since Pakistan had become a Republic and formed its own Constitution on March 23, 1956, Iskander Mirza stepped down as the fourth Governor General and earned the distinction of becoming the first President of Pakistan.
He, however, did not last long in that position as he imposed first full-fledged martial law because of unpleasant political developments on October 7, 1958 and Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army General Muhammad Ayub Khan was appointed as the Chief Martial Law Administrator. Just after three weeks, General Ayub Khan pushed him out and himself assumed the office of the President as the first military ruler of the country.
Ayub Khan ruled the country for ten and half years, during which he had attained the title of Field Marshal as well, he was forced to step down in March 1969 by his successor Army Chief General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan in the wake of uprising in East Pakistan and himself become the CMLA and then the President.
Cutting long story short and avoiding mentioning dates etc, General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan was followed as the President by newly-formed Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to whom power was transferred following dismemberment of Pakistan and East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh. Thus, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had also earned the distinction of being the first-ever civilian CMLA.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was followed by Fazal Elahi Chaudhry as the President who continued to held the office despite the bitter fact of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s first democratically elected government being over thrown by Chief of Army Staff General Muhammad Ziaul Haq in July 1977. On completion of his tenure, Fazal Elahi Chaudhry stepped down and General Muhammad Ziaul Haq assumed the office of the President as well while retaining the khaki uniform as the Army Chief. General Ziaul Haq’s long rule was cut short when C-130 plane carrying him along with several others crashed in the mid air in August 1988 near Bahawalpur.
As per rules, Senate Chairman Muhammad Ishaque Khan became the acting President till such time he was also formally elected as the President. He had stepped down prematurely in July 1993 following development pf serious differences with the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Senate Chairman Wasim Sajjad became the acting President till Sardar Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari was elected as the new President. But his tenure also came to end suddenly when he was forced by the circumstances to resign.
Senate Chairman Wasim Sajjad became the acting President for the second time till Justice (Retired) Muhammad Rafiq Tarar was elected as the new President. The then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was overthrown by Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf in October 1999. Initially, he assumed the title of the Chief Executive allowing incumbent President Rafiq Tarar to complete his tenure. But he could not could not stuck to his commitment for long and in June 2001 unceremoniously ousted President Rafiq Tarar from the Presidency and himself became the President while retaining the offices of the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chief of Army Staff.
General Pervez Musharraf stepped down in August 2008 and the then Senate Chairman Ahmedmian Soomro became the acting President till a new Head of the State was duly elected. Asif Ali Zardari was elected as the new President and he assumed the office in September 2008 for a five years constitutional tenure accordingly. He was followed by incumbent President Mamnoon Hussain in September 2013 and now the country is going to have new President elected on September 4, 2018.
All are keeping their fingers crossed and waiting as to who out of PTI’s Dr Arif Alvi, PPP’s Ch Aitzaz Ahsan and PML-N and other opposition parties candidate Maulana Fazlur Rehman emerges victorious in the battle of number of game in few days from now on September 4. It is a big test both for the ruling and opposition parties but if the major opposition parties PML-N and PPP do not mend their ways and unite putting up a consensus candidate unanimously out of Ch Aitzaz Ahsan and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, then PTI’s Dr Arif Alvi will have smooth sailing. Leadership of both PML-N and PPP has already expressed serious reservations against each other’s presidential candidate and there seems no stepping back in this regard.
Keep guessing as to who will be the new 20th President,including the four Governors General and the Presidents as well as the acting Presidents and military dictators who have ruled the country in little more than 71 years as the Head of the State and also praying that all goes well for the nation and the country, please.
—The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and can be reached at zahidriffat@gmail.com

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