Pres­i­dent House set to be opened to gen­eral pub­lic to­day

Gulf Times - - PAKISTAN -

Af­ter the open­ing of three Gov­er­nor Houses and a gov­ern­ment rest house in Mur­ree to the gen­eral pub­lic, the highly se­cured and spa­cious Pres­i­dent House, com­monly known as Ai­wan-i-Sadr, is set to wel­come vis­i­tors to­day.

A spokesman for Pres­i­dent House, Tahir Khush­nood, has said that they had de­cided to open the res­i­dence for one day, al­low­ing peo­ple to visit be­tween 9am and 4pm.

So far no de­ci­sion had been made to make it a reg­u­lar fea­ture, he said.

Khush­nood said that the move is in line with the Pak­istan Tehreek-e-In­saf (PTI)’s prom­ise to al­low pub­lic ac­cess to state build­ings.

Un­der this pol­icy, he said, the Gov­er­nor Houses had al­ready been opened to the gen­eral pub­lic.

To­day, the spokesman said, vis­i­tors would have the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore a mini-zoo in­side Pres­i­dent House, be­sides en­joy­ing a walk on green lawns and vis­it­ing the his­toric halls si­t­u­ated on the fifth floor, where oath-tak­ing cer­e­monies of top gov­ern­ment func­tionar­ies, in­clud­ing the prime min­is­ters, take place.

Asked about the dif­fi­cul­ties which the vis­i­tors could face due to the res­i­dence lo­ca­tion in the highly-se­cured Red Zone area, Khush­nood said that the gov­ern­ment would def­i­nitely de­vise a plan in con­sul­ta­tion with po­lice and se­cu­rity agen­cies and the vis­i­tors would be al­lowed to en­ter the premises af­ter a thor­ough search.

Spread over a vast area on Con­sti­tu­tion Av­enue be­tween the Par­lia­ment House build­ing and Pak­istan Sec­re­tariat cab­i­net block, Pres­i­dent House was a cen­tre of pol­i­tics in the past when the coun­try had strong pres­i­dents hav­ing the power to dis­solve the Na­tional Assem­bly and dis­miss an elected gov­ern­ment un­der Ar­ti­cle 58-2(B) of the Con­sti­tu­tion, in­tro­duced first time by the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor and then army chief Gen Zia ul-Haq in 1985 through the Eighth Amend­ment.

The con­tro­ver­sial ar­ti­cle had been used by for­mer pres­i­dents Zia, Ghu­lam Ishaq Khan, and Sar­dar Fa­rooq Ahmed Khan Leghari four times since 1988.

It was dur­ing the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment of the Pak­istan Peo­ples Party (PPP) un­der then-pres­i­dent Asif Ali Zar­dari that par­lia­ment, through the 18th Amend­ment, re­moved the con­tro­ver­sial ar­ti­cle from the Con­sti­tu­tion in 2010.

How­ever, since Zar­dari was also the head of the party, there­fore, Pres­i­dent House re­mained in the po­lit­i­cal fo­cus al­most through­out the PPP ten­ure un­til the Supreme Court took no­tice of the use of the of­fi­cial res­i­dence of the pres­i­dent, who should be a non­par­ti­san per­son as head of the state, for po­lit­i­cal meet­ings.

As the mil­i­tary rulers, Zia and Gen­eral Pervez Mushar­raf, mostly lived in Army House in Rawalpindi, their use of Pres­i­dent House was largely oc­ca­sional.

Prime Min­is­ter Im­ran Khan him­self does not re­side at the Prime Min­is­ter House, and the gov­ern­ment is work­ing on a plan to con­vert it into a re­search univer­sity.

A month af­ter Khan as­sumed of­fice, the Gov­er­nor Houses in Karachi (Sindh), La­hore (Pun­jab), and Pe­shawar (Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa) were opened for gen­eral pub­lic.

The Sindh Gov­er­nor House was the first state build­ing that had been opened to the gen­eral pub­lic.

Later, the Pun­jab Gov­er­nor House in La­hore and a rest house known as Gov­ern­ment House in Mur­ree were also opened for pub­lic on the PM di­rec­tives.

The Gov­ern­ment House is an ar­chi­tec­tural legacy of Bri­tish rule, and has been the site of sev­eral his­toric events.

On Septem­ber 30, the his­toric Gov­er­nor House in Pe­shawar was opened for gen­eral pub­lic.

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