Addressing a joint session of parliament on Monday, President Arif Alvi suggested that Pakistan and other countries of the world, rather than unjustly criticizing Prime Minister Imran Khan, should not only praise but try to benefit from his unmatched understanding of issues that includes, but is not limited to, complex geopolitical issues like Afghanistan, by coming under his tutelage and becoming his devotees. Perhaps he was referring to the same level of devotion he has shown Mr Khan over the past many years in the PTI that allowed him to secure the prestigious post of President of Pakistan. Unfortunately, as evidenced by his contentious statement, he is seemingly unaware of the political expectations from his role as laid down in the Constitution, that of being bipartisan and neutral. Granted, he is a senior member of the PTI whose leader is Mr Khan, but as President, he represents the entire country and therefore must maintain neutrality in the discharge of his official duties. That there were a series of protests, both inside and outside Parliament, against the government’s relentless pursuit to muzzle the media further by passing the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) bill, warranted a much more nuanced and balanced speech as opposed to the divisive rhetoric the President opted for.
It is also unfortunate that in the face of a rapidly deteriorating situation across the border in Afghanistan that all regional players are monitoring closely and are concerned over the ramifications each would face in terms of a rise in terrorism, the brunt of which Pakistan would face, was mentioned only in the context of how Mr Khan’s ‘advice’ to the USA eventually proved correct, instead of outlining a short- to medium-term strategy that Pakistan would adopt in the coming days. An embarrassing incident where he looked up at the National Assembly’s press gallery to thank the media for its role in curbing the spread of Covid-19, only to find that it was empty as it was locked on the orders of the National Assembly Speaker during the President’s speech, perfectly encapsulates the condition and trajectory of democratic norms in the country.