‘If Alvi decides to apply his own mind’

This is not the way to go about IT. One feels forced to say this because only 40 members, out of the total number of 342, were present in the House Wednesday afternoon when the National Assembly passed a resolution to “condemn” what it perceived as “unconstitutional conduct” of President Arif Alvi.

There is no doubt that the PTI planted dentist-turned-politician, Arif Alvi, had ceaselessly been behaving “monarchial” since the advent of April 3, 2022. He slavishly recognised Imran Khan as the legitimate prime minister of Pakistan in the night of April 3. Instead of calling for the headcount on an appropriately tabled motion of no-confidence against the former prime minister, the then Deputy Speaker, Qasim Suri, had “rejected” the same.

The audacity committed by Suri enabled Imran Khan to dissolve the National Assembly, elected in July 2018. To ensure the quick execution of his desire, he transmitted the constitutionally required ‘advice’ to the President and he took not more than a minute to say yes to it.

The Supreme Court later declared that Qasim Suri had no power to “reject” the motion of no confidence. There was no way to elude the count on it. It also “restored” the National Assembly and directed it to hold voting to find out whether Imran Khan still enjoyed support of the majority.


Yet, the then Speaker and the Deputy Speaker refused to budge. Finally, some optics, ominously suggesting intervention from extra parliamentary forces, ensured anxiously awaited count on the motion of no confidence in the late night of April 9. Two days later, Shehbaz Sharif was elected to the Prime Minister’s Office.


President Arif Alvi pretended to be sick to avoid taking an oath from the new Prime Minister, Senate Chairman had to deliver the needful. After initial throwing of tantrums, however, he started to behave properly, only for a while, though.


After taking over, Shehbaz Sharif also wanted to remove the PTI-nominated Governor of Punjab, Umer Sarfraz Cheema. The President refused to oblige. That compelled the Prime Minister to communicate the second advice on the same matter, considered ‘binding’ by our constitution.

For another time, Alvi preferred to assert his “authority.” He misinterpreted one vague clause of our “written” constitution to defend his defiance and audaciously disregarded Article 48 of the same constitution that clearly binds him to act on the advice of an elected Prime Minister.


The brazen support President Alvi furnished for Cheema had been keeping the most populous province of Pakistan, Punjab, without an effective and functional government for more than a month. Even the federal government would find it extremely difficult to function smoothly, if he continued behaving hard to get. That could lead to a plethora of yet not imagined crises as well.


Disregarding the day-to-day functions of a government, let’s jump to a possibly portentous development. In November this year, the Prime Minister has to appoint the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS). Let’s presume Shehbaz Sharif continues to stay put in the Prime Minister’s Office until then. How would the President react when asked to sign on the appointment announced by the Prime Minister while exercising his “discretion,” as the Constitution prescribes? Will Arif Alvi send back the summary and ask for a new name?


Despite presumably having a “written constitution,” the Islamic Republic of Pakistan will certainly look worse than any ‘banana republic,’ if Alvi decides to  “apply his own mind” on this highly sensitive matter. And I don’t want to go on and on imagining the flood of upsetting scenarios.


Yet how to check the impudent whims of President Alvi remains the question. If you go strictly by the book, he can only be impeached by parliament with the support of 2/3rd majority from both the houses of it. The combined strength of almost eleven parties, comprising the unity or the coalition government of these days, miserably lacks the required numbers. Except the route to impeachment our constitution does not provide any other tool to bridle a president gone wild. He could not be arrested and tried for acts of omission and commission while staying in his office.


Keeping the said limitations in mind the National Assembly should rather have not made a joke of itself by adopting a resolution, ‘condemning’ the president like powerless kids. Even if the “protest” were necessary, the said resolution deserved to be presented in a crowded house, where leaders of all political parties represented in the government were personally present.


But the house looked deserted because ‘the cat’, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, had gone to London along with a team of his senior ministers. He was expected to meet his elder brother and the ultimate decider for Pakistan Muslim League (N), Nawaz Sharif.


The prime minister took an SOS flight to London to seek ‘guidance’ on a plethora of issues demanding immediate actions by the government. Far more important is the compulsion of increasing the prices of petroleum products. Unless the government goes for it, the IMF will simply not be willing to restart negotiations to decide the terms for an extended bailout package for Pakistan. Without visible mobility on the said front, even the most friendly and brotherly countries are not willing to extend any financial support to us.


Nawaz Sharif justifiably feels that the massive increase in petroleum prices in one go would augment inflation to unbearable limits. That could also provoke shirtless millions to take to the streets. Even without the unmanageable street agitation, the PML-N will quickly start depleting its vote bank after the expected price hikes, eventually facilitating Imran Khan to stage a comeback in the government with a bang.


Instead of squandering the vote bank to please the IMF, Nawaz Sharif was reported to have been suggesting instantly going for earliest possible elections. Not only Shehbaz Sharif but also many powerful segments of permanent state institutions strongly feel that Pakistan must rush taking tough and unpopular decisions, here and now, to prevent “default” that may ignite system-demolishing riots, the kind Sri Lanka is enduring these days.


The prime minister also doesn’t want to look as if being “reckless and selfish” during a period that no doubt is too daunting for the country. But he is not the ultimate decider not only for his party but also as the head of a unity or the coalition government that survives with the majority of only two votes in the National Assembly. We have to wait for his return from London to find out where the country is heading.


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