Former Pakistan President Arif Alvi leaves legacy of controversy and polarization

Former Pakistani President Arif Alvi (L) arrives to attend Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad on March 23, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 09 March 2024

Former Pakistan President Arif Alvi leaves legacy of controversy and polarization

  • President Alvi retires after serving over five years in office, with his leader and ex-PM Imran Khan in jail with PTI supporters
  • Alvi’s critics say he ‘emasculated’ Pakistan’s democracy with unconstitutional steps, prioritized party loyalty over his duties

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s outgoing President, Dr. Arif Alvi, leaves behind a legacy of political polarization, controversial ordinances and unflinching loyalty to his party leader, the jailed ex-premier Imran Khan, as termed by political parties and analysts on Friday, who called his over five-year tenure partial and contentious.
Dr. Alvi, who was sworn in as the 13th head of the Pakistani state on September 9, 2018, saw his five-year term end last year. However, he remained in office until Friday due to the absence of national and provincial legislatures, which, along with the Senate, constitute the electoral college for the presidency.
The presidential election is now set for today, Saturday, with the ruling alliance nominating the former president and co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari against Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai. The latter is backed by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) alliance for the coveted position.
A dentist by profession, Alvi entered politics in 1979 to participate in the elections on the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) ticket from Karachi, but the contest was called off following a military coup by former army chief General Zia-ul-Haq. He later resigned from JI and became one of the founding members of PTI in 1996, eventually serving as its Sindh president.
Despite unsuccessful bids for a provincial seat in Karachi in the 1997 and 2002 elections, and PTI’s boycott of the 2008 national elections under another military ruler, General (r) Pervez Musharraf, Alvi’s political journey ascended. He secured a National Assembly seat from Karachi in 2013 on a PTI ticket and became an active parliament member. In 2018, he won against Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) heavyweight Dr. Farooq Sattar for a national seat as PTI gained a majority, enabling it to form a government at the center and in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
As one of Khan’s closest confidants, Alvi was nominated for the presidency due to his reputation as a hardworking legislator and a loyal party member, although the President’s role in Pakistan is largely ceremonial. While his party lauds him as “one of the best” presidents, his detractors criticize his tenure for allegedly disregarding the constitution.
“I believe he was one of the best presidents we have had in recent times, full of intellect and wisdom,” Zulfi Bukhari, a PTI member and Khan’s close friend, told Arab News. “I wish he had more in his power to help the cause of Imran Khan, democracy and rule of law in Pakistan.”
Conversely, Khurram Dastgir, a senior member of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and former federal minister, described Alvi’s presidency as “diminished, marred by contempt for the constitution and blatant partisanship.”
“He emasculated Pakistan’s democracy with recurring unconstitutional actions, favoring his party over his symbolic role as the federation’s unifier,” Dastgir commented, criticizing Alvi’s tenure as marred by incompetence and bad faith.
Opponents accuse the President of undertaking “illegal and unconstitutional steps” to serve his party and leader. Alvi dissolved the National Assembly in April 2022 on Khan’s advice, amid a looming no-confidence motion. The Supreme Court later reversed this decision, reinstating the assembly. However, Alvi refrained from administering the oath of office to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, opting for sick leave instead.
Following the recent general elections on February 8, Alvi delayed convening the National Assembly session for the swearing-in of newly elected legislators, attributing his decision to unresolved issues regarding the allocation of reserved seats to the PTI-SIC alliance.
“The President violated his oath and the constitution by taking these illegal and unconstitutional steps to please his party and the leader,” PPP secretary-information Faisal Karim Kundi told Arab News.
“President Alvi is leaving behind a legacy of political polarization as he failed to build consensus among political parties as the head of the state on major issues like the elections,” he continued, adding Alvi neither served his party nor the country well.
Dr. Farooq Adil, a former adviser to the President, noted that Alvi, utilized by his party to issue numerous ordinances, faced criticism for transforming the presidency into an ‘ordinance factory,’ bypassing parliament. Alvi promulgated over 70 ordinances during the PTI’s tenure from August 2018 to April 2022, detracting from the presidency’s stature.
 “The president failed to act like a true representative of the state,” he told Arab News. “Instead, he preferred Imran Khan’s loyalty over the national interests in many crucial matters.”
Adil said Alvi would be remembered as a loyal worker of Khan “who reduced the stature of the presidency through his partisan acts.”
Another controversy arose last August when Alvi denied signing two crucial bills, accusing his staff of overriding his authority.
“As God is my witness, I did not sign Official Secrets Amendment Bill, 2023 and Pakistan Army Amendment Bill, 2023 as I disagreed with these laws,” Alvi said in an X post after the government notified both of the bills had become laws.
The bills, which give the authorities more power to prosecute people for acts against the state and its military, were approved by both houses of parliament and sent to the president for his approval.
Alvi’s leader and ex-premier Khan was later charged and handed down 10-year in prison under an earlier version of the Official Secrets Act on charges of leaking state secrets to the public. Dozens of PTI workers and leaders are were also charged under the Army Act for their involvement in violence last year in May when people attacked military installations in different cities following Khan’s arrest in a graft case.
“He was a controversial president not only for the opposition, but also for his party as he preferred to clinging to power instead of resigning from his position when his colleagues and party workers were put behind bars,” Munizae Jahangir, political analyst and TV talk-show host, told Arab News.
However, she lauded his role for speaking up for women’s rights, especially their land rights.
“He won’t be remembered as independent and impartial president,” she added. “He even failed to make an effective gesture through his resignation during the state crackdown on his party.”

Bodies of Pakistanis killed in Oman mosque attack brought home, handed over to families

Updated 5 sec ago

Bodies of Pakistanis killed in Oman mosque attack brought home, handed over to families

  • Four Pakistanis were among six people killed when gunmen opened fire at Shia mosque in Oman this week
  • Pakistan’s foreign office earlier said at least 30 Pakistanis injured in attack were being treated at a hospital

Islamabad: The bodies of four Pakistani nationals, who were killed in a mosque attack in the Omani capital of Muscat this week, were brought back home by the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and handed over to their families, a PIA official confirmed on Friday.

Six people were killed when three gunmen, all brothers and of Omani nationality, opened fire on worshippers at a Shia Muslim mosque in Muscat on Monday evening.

The deceased included four Pakistanis, an Indian and a police officer who responded to the attack, claimed by the Daesh militant group.

Pakistan described the assault as a “terror attack,” while Omani police said the gunmen were “influenced by misguided ideas.”

“The bodies of all four Pakistanis killed in Muscat mosque attack were brought back through PIA flights and handed over to their families,” Abdullah Hafeez Khan, the PTI general manager for coordination and public affairs, told Arab News.

The body of Sulaiman Nawaz body reached Lahore via PIA flight PK230 at 5pm on Thursday. Syed Qaiser Abbas Bukhari’s body was brought back via PIA flight PK226 from Muscat to Karachi and from there, it was flown to Lahore by flight PK302, according to the PIA official.

The bodies of the other two victims, Ghulam Abbas and Hasan Abbas, reached Islamabad from Muscat via PIA flight PK292 at 1am on Friday.

Pakistan’s foreign office said that at least 30 Pakistanis were injured in the attack and they were being treated at hospital.

Daesh’s operations have indicated the group is attempting a comeback after it was crushed by a US-led coalition following its occupation of large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate. It also inspired lone-wolf attacks in the West.

Any inroads in Gulf Arab oil producers such as Oman would raise fears in Washington and the region which has long viewed militant groups as a major threat.

Monday evening marked the beginning of Ashura, an annual period of mourning marked by Shia Muslims to commemorate the 7th-century death of Imam Hussain, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Amid investment push, Turkmenistan foreign minister to visit Pakistan next week

Updated 3 min 47 sec ago

Amid investment push, Turkmenistan foreign minister to visit Pakistan next week

  • Pakistan hopes to enhance its role as pivotal trade and transit hub connecting landlocked Central Asia to rest of the world
  • There has been a flurry of visits, investment talks and economic activity between Pakistan and Central Asian states recently

ISLAMABAD: Turkmenistan Foreign Minister Rasit Meredow will undertake a two-day visit to Pakistan from July 22-24, the foreign minister said on Friday, as the South Asian state pushes to boost trade with Central Asian states. 

Pakistan hopes to leverage its strategic geopolitical position and enhance its role as a pivotal trade and transit hub connecting the landlocked Central Asian republics with the rest of the world. In recent months, there has been a flurry of visits, investment talks and economic activity between Pakistan and Central Asian states, including meetings with leaders from Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.

“Foreign Minister Rasit Meredown will visit Pakistan from July 22-24,” foreign office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said during a weekly press briefing on Friday. “He will hold extensive talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar and also call on the Pakistan leadership.”

The talks would cover “all aspects of bilateral relations” as well as regional and global developments, the FO added.

Located in a landlocked but resource-rich region, Central Asian countries need better access to regional markets including Pakistan, China, India, and the countries of West Asia. Meanwhile, Pakistan has huge energy demands that can be satisfied by growing trade with Central Asia. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, in which Beijing has pledged around $65 billion in energy, infrastructure and other schemes in Pakistan, also presents a strategic opportunity for Central Asian states to transport their goods more easily in regional and global markets.

Islamabad is seeking to bolster trade and investment relations with allies to stabilize its fragile $350 billion economy as it faces an acute balance of payment crisis amid soaring inflation and surging external debt.

Last week, Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached an agreement for a $7 billion, 37-month loan, capping negotiations that started in May after Islamabad completed a short-term, $3 billion program that helped stabilize the economy and avert a sovereign debt default.

Viral teen from Pakistan’s Hunza Valley aims for the stars with Coke Studio hit

Updated 14 min 51 sec ago

Viral teen from Pakistan’s Hunza Valley aims for the stars with Coke Studio hit

  • Coke Studio Season 15 came to a close with “Mehman,” featuring Noorima Rehan, Zebunnisa Bangash and Nizam ud Din Torwali
  • Rehan, 18, shot to fame last year with YouTube cover of Asha Bhosle song, has also performed virtually at King Charles coronation 

SHIGAR, Gilgit-Baltistan: Pakistani teenager Noorima Rehan first shot to fame last year after a video of her crooning famed Indian singer Asha Bhosle’s iconic song ‘In Aankhon Ki Masti’ became a viral hit. She was subsequently chosen to virtually join a star-studded lineup of performers at King Charles III’s coronation concert in May 2023. 

But the best was still to come.

Now, the 18-year-old from Hunza Valley in Pakistan’s picturesque northern Gilgit-Baltistan region is attracting both local and international attention with her debut on the latest season of Coke Studio, the longest-running annual TV music show in Pakistan.

Coke Studio Season 15 came to a close with the release of its eleventh and final song, “Mehman” — which translates to guest — featuring Rehan as well as the powerful vocals of Zebunnisa (Zeb) Bangash, a Pakistani singer-songwriter from Lahore, Punjab, and Nizam ud Din Torwali from the remote town of Taip Se Ban in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The song has been viewed almost 5 million times on YouTube since its release two weeks ago.

“My family supported me, my father supported me, and the community of Hunza and Gilgit supported me,” Rehan, who is the eldest of five siblings and also a professional ice hockey player, told Arab News in an interview. “So, I don’t think I faced a barrier that led to a gap between me and my passion for music.”

Noorima Rehan poses for a photograph with her parents at Shigar Fort, located in Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan region, on July 11, 2024  (AN Photo) 

She also credited her family’s passion for music for her success and interest in the field. 

“My mother’s voice is very good and she sings very well. Even my father, brother and sisters sing quite well. However, no one [from my family] has pursued music as a profession. So, I am the only one who has chosen music as a career.”

Rehan, who will soon start an undergraduate degree in sociology at Islamabad’s Iqra University on a scholarship, said she got her chance on Coke Studio after the show’s producer Zulfikar Jabbar Khan, popularly known as “Xulfi,” came across her Asha Bhosle rendition on YouTube. 

“Xulfi Bhai approached me [after watching the clip], which led to my journey with Coke Studio,” Rehan said. 


A press release by Coke Studio described Mehmaan as a multi-artist collaboration that spoke to the “idea of hospitality, not just on Earth but also from a higher, more divine plane. The song speaks to those seeking answers and guidance from the sublime and its abundant wisdom.”

Rehan said for her, the song felt like her, Bangash and Torwali were “dreaming together” of a return to Eden. 

“This was my first time with them, and I had to record in a very short period,” she said. “But before that, they had shared the lyrics and melody with me and I practiced .... then I went there and after a little jamming session, we recorded the song.”

Rehan described being a “little nervous” at the outset since she had never recorded professionally before but found the Coke Studio team “very kind and helpful.”

“For me, the most interesting part of this journey was Nizam [Torwali],” she recalled. “I met him there. He was different and couldn’t speak Urdu. So, I tried from my side to help him. He was kind of funny. So, I enjoyed a lot while working with him.”

It was also a fan girl moment for her to sing alongside Bangash, a well-established artist already. 

“From listening to her songs to performing with her was a big thing,” Rehan said. “She is very calm, kind with a humble personality. She helped me a lot in the whole journey.”

Rehan’s father Rehan Shah, a local politician and gemstone dealer, said his daughter had made the family name “proud.”

“We want to thank God she has been getting opportunities. And working with Coke Studio at such a young age is a proud movement for us,” Shah told Arab News. “Talent is hidden in a child. But the main thing is how do we support them and provoke their talents. We have been supporting her and will definitely support her in the field of music in the future also.

“In our society, girls are a soft target in fields like music and there is no exception for Noorima as well. You have to face criticism because a girl is singing songs. But we will fight against this social pressure and always support our children.”

Pakistan arrests Al-Qaeda leader, files case over plans to sabotage government installations

Updated 38 min 13 sec ago

Pakistan arrests Al-Qaeda leader, files case over plans to sabotage government installations

  • Amin ul Haq is considered a close associate of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks
  • Counter-Terrorism Department has accused Haq of planning to sabotage important installations in Punjab

LAHORE: Pakistani counter-terror officials have arrested an Al-Qaeda leader, Amin ul Haq, describing him as a close associate of the dead Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) in the most populous province of Punjab said it had registered a legal case against ul Haq, accusing him of having planned sabotage targeting important installations in the province.

“In a significant breakthrough in the fight against terrorism, CTD, in collaboration with intelligence agencies, successfully apprehended Amin ul Haq, a senior leader of Al-Qaeda,” the department’s spokesperson added in a statement.

Bin Laden was killed in 2011 during a US raid on his hideout in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

Kashmiris mark ‘Accession to Pakistan Day’ amid renewed calls for right to self-determination

Updated 19 July 2024

Kashmiris mark ‘Accession to Pakistan Day’ amid renewed calls for right to self-determination

  • Muslim-majority Himalayan region has been a flashpoint between arch-rivals Pakistan and India since independence in 1947
  • Both countries rule parts of the Himalayan territory but claim it in full and have fought two out of three wars over the disputed region

ISLAMABAD: Kashmiris in parts of the world are observing the “Accession to Pakistan Day” today, Friday, with a renewed pledge to continue struggle for their right to self-determination, Pakistani state media reported.

The Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir has been divided between Pakistan and India since their independence from British rule in 1947. Both countries rule parts of the Himalayan territory but claim it in full and have fought two out of three wars over the disputed region.

On July 19, 1947, Kashmiri representatives had unanimously passed the resolution of Kashmir’s Accession to Pakistan during a meeting of the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference in Srinagar. The resolution called for the accession in view of aspirations of Kashmir people and their religious, geographical, cultural and economic proximity to Pakistan.

The Accession to Pakistan Day is observed by Kashmiris every year to renew their pledge to complete the merger. The Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK) government has announced a public holiday on the occasion to facilitate the masses to participate in the special programs.

“Wide-scale programs have been chalked out to observe the day throughout Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK),” Pakistani state-run APP news agency reported.

Pakistan calls for the right of self-determination for the people of Indian-administered Kashmir and urged New Delhi to hold a plebiscite in line with the resolutions of the UN Security Council.

The day is being observed at a time when the part of the territory administered by New Delhi has been witnessing an uptick in violence.

Four Indian soldiers were killed and at least six others were wounded in gunbattles with militants in Indian-administered Kashmir, a senior police officer said this month. Prior to that, two soldiers and six suspected militants were killed in two separate gunbattles in the Kulgam district, police said.

Separatist groups have waged an insurgency since 1989, demanding independence for the territory or its merger with Pakistan. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and rebels. India accuses Pakistan of supporting the separatists, a charge denied by Islamabad.