For Karachi’s textile businessman, Mamnoon Hussain, it may be dream come true, but he may find it extremely difficult to build his image as a neutral president.
For the PML-N it has been hard to make the presidential election appear “non controversial,” while it tried to get maximum support for its candidate. The strong reaction led by the PPP and PTI has already raised questions over the whole process.
President Asif Ali Zardari never hid his bias, as for almost four years he retained his position as PPP’s co-chairman. However, he handed over all his presidential powers to Parliament, something which other presidents never did. Despite his political position, he was accepted as a duly elected president by the opposition because the election process was never challenged or deemed controversial.
But in this case, the PML-N itself has made the process controversial and the Election Commission further complicated the situation. Despite Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim’s position that election should have been held on August 6, and that he wanted to take this position in the Supreme Court, his views were defeated by a majority vote.
Mamnoon could try to establish his neutrality by inviting major opposition parties like PPP, PTI, ANP on board. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif can also play an important role in this.
But that is yet to be seen. As the situation stands today, despite Justice (retd) Wajiuddin’s personal views about going into polls, his chairman and majority PTI leaders shared the views of the PPP over the procedure adopted in the elections.
There are whispered concerns about whether the upcoming president is going to be remote-controlled by the prime minister. This would be the opposite of the previous government where two prime ministers were controlled by the “presidential remote.”
Mamnoon and PML-N leaders would have heaved a sigh of relief after getting support from the MQM, and would now try to repair the damage caused to PML-N’s alliances by their visit to Nine Zero.
Mamnoon’s first challenge will begin from his hometown and home province. Will he meet the Sindhi nationalists and Sindhi leaders within the party like Mumtaz Bhutto, Liaquat Jatoi, Hakim Baloch, Marvi Memon, Shafqat Jamot, and above all PML-N’s Sindh President Syed Ghous Ali Shah to assure them that the government would not go into an alliance with the MQM? That, actually, may not be true.
The situation may also not be easy for the new president in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where the PTI and its allies are ruling. Imran Khan has already announced countrywide protest after Eid against the charges of rigging in the May 11 elections. The PPP can extend its support to Imran, not only in the protest but also in the by-elections, if such an understanding is developed.
Besides, Awami National Party, Pakistan Muslim League (Q), Qaumi Watan Party, BNM (Awami) and even PML-N’s allies Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam are not very happy with the process.
It is now the responsibility of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his team to rescue Mamnoon from this situation and start the damage control process as opposition would like to make the presidential election a controversial bane. With seasoned PPP leaders on one side and the energetic PTI team led by the charismatic Khan on the other, it will not be easy for the PML-N to counter the situation.
The new president’s biggest challenge is to keep the presidency away from political controversies. But can he do it in a situation where he would be under attack all the time? Let us see.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2013.