The new President
The election of PTI nominee DrArifAlvi as the President of Pakistan marks the successful completion of the third democratic transition in the country. Earlier PTI won the speakership of National Assembly followed by the election of Imran Khan as Prime Minister. Now a third elected parliament and provincial assemblies have elected a new president in a little over a decade since the return of civilian government in Pakistan. Emerging as a majority party in the recent general elections, PTI and allied parties have formed governments in the center, in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while in Balochistan PTI is in alliance with regional parties.
ArifAlvi sailed through comfortably by winning the support of a majority of the members of Parliament and provincial assemblies, with JUI-F President MaulanaFazlurRehman and Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan of Pakistan Peoples' Party trailing way behind. Under the special voting formula for the office of the President, there is one member one vote for the Senate and the National Assembly. The same formula applies to Balochistan Assembly where there are 65 members that account for 65 votes. For other provincial assemblies, the vote quota for each assembly is equal to Balochistan Assembly (65). This means that the total number of members (where it is more than 65) is divided in such a manner that each assembly has 65 votes.
In the run-up to the presidential poll it seemed that it would be a tough contest, given the large number of opposition members both in the Senate and provincial assemblies, but the split in the ranks of the opposition parties went in favour of ArifAlvi. The presidential election election serves as a lesson to the opposition that unless it learns to put aside its petty differences, it cannot hope to wield any influence for the next five years. Had the now-failed Pakistan Alliance managed to pitch one candidate, there was a chance it could have manipulated the numbers to grab the last powerful position in the government.
To the extent that the election, an important democratic milestone, has not been marred by allegations of misconduct or rigging, the new president, ArifAlvi, makes an auspicious start. After the election, as a goodwill gesture, President-elect DrArifAlvi vowed to serve the people as a whole irrespective of party affiliation and play his constitutional role in ensuring that every Pakistani gets his due share in shelter, health, education and employment: "I pledge to serve all the people of Pakistan, without any discrimination, as I am not the President of any party, but of all the parties and of the people of all the provinces".
Needless to say, as a symbol of the federation, the President can draw attention to issues that are either less prominent in the national discourse or ignored by the political class. At all times, the president has to remain above the political fray, and a judicious use of the presidential platform can help highlight causes that truly bind the nation.
The presidential poll completes a full round of elections to the provincial assemblies, the National Assembly, the Senate and the presidency during the current year. The PTI is now firmly installed in three provinces and at the centre and fpr quick results will need to change from campaign mode to effective governance. Prime Minister Imran Khan has sketched an ambitious domestic reforms agenda, but so far few strategies and road maps have been revealed. Certainly, much will depend on how the government goes about implementing its manifesto promises. A quick rollout of a reform agenda will give the PTI governments at the centre and in the provinces enough time to assess whether the results are satisfactory and make changes before electoral considerations once again come into play a few years down the road.