Experts skeptical about Alvi's mediation offer

Questions raised if Imran had asked Alvi to go ahead with the move

Rizwan Shehzad   August 17, 2022


Political experts are skeptical about President Arif Alvi’s offer to mediate between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and PTI chairman and deposed premier Imran Khan as leaders of the latter’s party remained tight-lipped till Tuesday on whether or not the president had offered to make peace between the two only after the ex-PM had asked him to do so.

Last week brought a bonanza of offers in the political arena: the president wished to mediate between the incumbent and former premiers; the prime minister extended an olive branch to the PTI chief; and Imran Khan announced that he was open to talks with the leadership of the multi-party alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). However, all these offers are still pending decisions.

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Since the president, who belongs to the PTI, presented his office for holding a dialogue, several political experts have questioned his ability to influence his party chief and wondered if Imran would stop his verbal assault on his opponents as a first step to build trust between the two sides.

“It all depends on what degree of influence, if any, Dr Alvi can exercise on  Imran Khan,” Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, the president of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), said.

“Although the president is placed above the prime minister in our formal warrant of precedence, he remains a nominee of Imran as his party head and therefore is traditionally in a very weak and subservient position,” he added.

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Mehboob elaborated that this was the reason that even the PDM parties would not take the president seriously as an independent entity.

He further said irrespective of that, the president could at least theoretically provide an opportunity for both Shehbaz and Imran to sit across the table.

“I am however skeptical that this can happen or even if it happens, it can yield any positive result,” the PILDAT president believed.

“If that has to happen, Imran Khan and his party would have to stop verbal assaults against PDM leaders and the latter should reciprocate. Any meaningful dialogue may follow this confidence-building step,” he said.

Professor Tahir Malik of NUML University’s International Relations department acknowledged that there was a realisation that polarisation needed to be reduced to stabilise the economy, curb the re-emerging challenge of terrorism and minimise its overall impact on society.

“The people didn’t bother as only politicians were wrangling with each other and continued mud-slinging instead of winning through arguments,” he added.

However, the professor noted, they had realised the gravity of the situation when the institutions were maligned and that was why the president’s office was mobilised.

“Keeping the political parties structure in mind, the president doesn’t seem to have the kind of stature where he could influence Imran Khan’s decision making,” he observed.

“In Pakistan, the whole [political] party revolves around its head. That is because they have the powers to appoint people to the party as well as to constitutional positions,” he explained.

The professor said it seemed that Alvi was more of a member of the PTI than the country’s president. “The positions that he took in the past led to several crises,” he noted.

“It has hardly ever appeared that he [Alvi] was holding such a key constitutional position and looking at things while rising above the party affiliation. That is why I don’t have much hope about the president’s initiative,” he added.

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The president’s offer to pour water on political conflagration has come amid skyrocketing political mercury with relentless confrontations between stakeholders, charges of inciting mutiny in the armed forces and rising economic woes.

The president has called upon the country’s political leadership to lower the rhetoric and adopt the policy of reconciliation.

Several PTI leaders were asked to comment if the president had offered mediation only after Imran gave him the nod but they did not comment.

Members of the coalition government were also asked if their parties would accept the president’s mediation offer but they did not reply either.


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