The controversial tenure of Pakistan’s President Dr. Arif Alvi

Islamabad: Dr. Arif Alvi is poised to become the fourth democratically elected president in Pakistan’s history to serve a full five-year term, as his tenure officially concludes today (Friday).

The three previous presidents who completed their entire terms were Chaudhary Fazal Elahi (the fifth president, from 1973 to 1978), Asif Ali Zardari (the eleventh president, from 2008 to 2013), and Mamnoon Hussain (the twelfth president, from 2013 to 2018). Dr. Alvi will thus continue the trend as the third consecutive president to complete a full term.

Furthermore, Dr. Alvi is expected to stay in office indefinitely due to the absence of an electoral college required to select the president. This would make him one of the few heads of state in Pakistan’s history to have an extended term. Notably, Chaudhry Elahi also served an additional month as a figurehead before Ziaul Haq assumed the presidency on September 16, 1978.

According to the law, the president is elected by members of both houses of parliament, including the Senate, the National Assembly, and the four provincial assemblies.

Article 44(1) of the Constitution stipulates that the president shall hold office for a term of five years from the day he assumes office, but he continues to hold the office until a successor is chosen.

Given the uncertainty surrounding general elections, with the Election Commission reportedly planning to hold them around late January, the duration of Dr. Alvi’s tenure remains uncertain.

During his term, Dr. Arif Alvi has been at the center of controversies, with critics accusing him of manipulating the Constitution and turning the Presidency into a prolific “ordinance factory” by promulgating 77 ordinances.

He faced criticism both inside and outside parliament for allegedly submitting references with ill intent against judges of the superior judiciary and making legally questionable appointments in autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies on the advice of the prime minister, which were invalidated by the courts.

Dr. Alvi also faced significant backlash after dissolving the National Assembly at the behest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, following the deputy speaker’s proroguing of a highly anticipated session without allowing a vote on a no-confidence motion against Mr. Khan.

However, a five-judge Supreme Court bench later unanimously declared Dr. Alvi’s decision to dissolve the National Assembly as “contrary to the Constitution and the law and of no legal effect.”

Similarly, in June 2020, the Supreme Court rejected the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa, deeming it “invalid.”

In February of this year, President Alvi bypassed the Election Commission and unilaterally announced election dates for Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, setting April 9 as the election date.

His most recent controversy arose when Dr. Alvi claimed that he had not signed two key bills granting more powers to the Army and intelligence agencies. However, the two bills, concerning amendments to the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act, were enacted by parliament.

“As God is my witness, I did not sign the Official Secrets Amendment Bill 2023 & the Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2023 as I disagreed with these laws,” Dr. Alvi posted on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. Dr. Alvi also accused his own staff of undermining his authority, drawing criticism from his detractors who advised him to resign if he couldn’t control his staff.

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