ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s new President Mamnoon Hussain took office on Monday, presiding over a government battling to overcome a Taliban insurgency, resolve an energy crisis and repair the economy.
A respected businessman from the financial capital of Karachi but with no political powerbase of his own, Mamnoon is Pakistan’s 12th president and a ceremonial head of state for the next five years.
His time in office should cement Pakistan’s transition back to a strong prime minister and parliamentary democracy after his predecessor reversed amendments made by military rulers.
A short oath-taking ceremony at the Aiwan-e-Sadr was attended by members of the federal cabinet, chief ministers, provincial governors, former presidents and prime ministers, judges, the services chiefs, diplomats and senior officials.
A symbolic yet significant aspect of the ceremony was that this time four, instead of usual two chairs, were placed on the dais – one each for new president Mamnoon, outgoing president Asif Ali Zardari, PM Nawaz Sharif and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry –signifying the progress of democracy and the parliamentary system in the country.
The ceremony began with the sound of the trumpets marking the arrival of the chief guest. The jam packed hall resounded with applause as soon as outgoing president Zardari entered the hall. He was followed by Prime Minister Nawaz, Chief Justice Chaudhry and Mamnoon Hussain.
The chief justice administered oath in Urdu to Mamnoon Hussain, who was wearing black sherwani and Jinnah cap. The text of the order to be printed in the “Gazette of Pakistan” was read out. National anthem was played at the beginning and the end.
Zardari warmly shook hands with the new president and prime minister and felicitated them. Later, the other guests also greeted the newly sworn in president and wished him well on assuming national responsibilities.
The 73-year-old president was elected on July 30 by members of the four provincial assemblies and the federal parliament. He defeated Justice (r) Wajiuddin Ahmed of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), as the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) boycotted the Presidential poll.
A close ally of Nawaz, Mamnoon’s low-key persona and lack of personal power will put him in stark contrast to Zardari – the widower of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto who presided over the only civilian government in Pakistan to complete a full term in office and hand over to another at the ballot box.
Zardari’s PPP suffered a humiliating electoral defeat to the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) in May when Nawaz was elected for a record third term as premier.
A graduate of the prestigious Institute of Business Administration, Karachi, President Mamnoon Hussain was born in 1940 in Agra, India and his family migrated to Pakistan in 1947 at the time of partition. Mamnoon Hussain is a former president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and was briefly governor of the southern province Sindh – from June to October 1999, when he was ousted along with the PML-N government of Nawaz Sharif by the then army chief General Pervez Musharraf.
President Mamnoon Hussain has said he will take constitutional position to maintain good and friendly relations between the federation and the provinces.
In a media interview before taking oath, Mamnoon said the government is serious about resolving the challenges being faced by the country and he will make utmost efforts to bring close all federating units for this purpose.
Mamnoon said law and order in the country particularly in Karachi is major challenge for the government. However‚ he expressed the confidence that the government will succeed to cope with the challenge and bring peace in the country which is vital for socio-economic growth.
On Balochistan‚ he said it is good omen that nationalist parties are not only in the provincial assembly but they are leading the government in the province hoping that it will lead to resolve the issues being faced by Balochistan. 8, 2013).