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President Completes Five-Year Term in Office

Arif Alvi likely to continue in his role, as new president cannot be elected until a new National Assembly is in place

by Staff Report

File photo. Farooq Naeem—AFP

President Arif Alvi on Friday completed his five-year term in office, though he is likely to continue in his present role until his successor can be elected after general elections.

Under the Constitution, a new president cannot be elected without an electoral college comprising the National Assembly, the Senate, and all four provincial assemblies. The National Assembly and the Sindh and Balochistan assemblies were dissolved last month, while the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies have been lying vacant since January. With Parliament lacking its full strength, Alvi can continue as president “indefinitely” until general elections, likely to occur in January or February 2024.

However, in recent days, there has been widespread speculation that Alvi could choose to step down, leaving the office of the Presidency vacant. In this scenario, the Senate chairman would serve as acting president until a successor can be elected.

Despite having completed his constitutional tenure, Alvi’s time in office was marred by several controversies. Critics have repeatedly accused him of serving as a mouthpiece of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), violating the “neutrality” envisioned for the President’s Office. He has also been accused of facilitating the sidelining of Parliament by promulgating 77 ordinances during his five years, compared to around 35 by his predecessor, Mamnoon Hussain.

A major criticism against his use of the presidency emerged from his sending a reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court. PTI Chairman Imran Khan, after his ouster as prime minister, admitted that the reference had been a “mistake,” which was subsequently echoed by Alvi. This stands in contrast to Alvi’s vociferous defense of the reference to media when he forwarded it to the Supreme Judicial Council on the advice of the prime minister.

Similarly, he was severely criticized for approving, within minutes, a summary moved by Khan to dissolve the National Assembly while he was facing a vote of no-confidence. This decision was held “contrary to the Constitution and the law and of no legal effect” by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court, which directed for the vote of no-confidence to proceed.

More recently, Alvi set off controversy by unilaterally announcing April 9 as the date for elections to the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies. The matter was eventually resolved in court, with a ruling declaring the president could only issue a date for provincial assemblies if the relevant governor had failed to do so.

Last month, Alvi set off his latest controversy by alleging—in a posting on Twitter—that he had not assented to the amended Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act. Claiming his staff had undermined his will and command, he “apologized” to people who would be impacted by the legislations after they were notified as acts of Parliament. While Alvi’s supporters have praised him for the disclosure, his critics have noted the issue only arose because he failed to return the bills with his objections.

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