President House set to be opened to general public today
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.