PTI’s Alvi elected 13th president of Pakistan

Newly elected president of Pakistan Arif Alvi flashes the victory sign on his arrival before the presidential election at the National Assembly in Islamabad on Sept. 4, 2018. (FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP)
Updated 04 September 2018

PTI’s Alvi elected 13th president of Pakistan

  • Victorious candidate faced two other contenders, Aitzaz Ahsan and Maulana Fazlur Rehman
  • Alvi received 352 votes from 706 in electoral college’s secret ballot

ISLAMABAD: Dr. Arif Alvi, the Pakistan ruling coalition candidate, was chosen as the republic’s 13th president on Tuesday, five days before incumbent President Mamnoon Hussain’s term expires.
Alvi was elected in a secret ballot carried out by the country’s electoral college consisting of the Senate, National Assembly and four provincial assemblies. 
“I am the president of the entire nation and all parties from today, not just the president nominated by the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf),” the president-elect said. “Each party has an equal right on me.”
Alvi is expected to take the oath of office on Sept. 9.
Speaking to the media after the announcement, Alvi thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan for trusting him to take up the “big responsibility.” 
The Election Commission of Pakistan will announce the official results on Wednesday. However, a preliminary vote count showed a “clear majority” in favor of the PTI co-founder and parliamentarian who is believed to have received 352 of the 706 votes cast.

Alvi’s victory was tipped ahead of the presidential election by political observers following signs of a rift between Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the joint opposition.
The party of jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif backed Maulana Fazlur Rehman while the PPP went ahead with lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan as its candidate. This failure to reach a consensus and nominate a single candidate weakened any power the opposition alliance may have had.

“Alvi’s election shows that PTI and its allies stand united and on the same page, while the opposition has not yet recovered from its electoral defeat,” said political analyst Umar Kareem.

Lt. Gen. (retd.) Talat Masood dubbed the Sindh-based PPP as “the opposition within the opposition.”

Speaking to Arab News, he said that the “PPP’s move (to elect a separate candidate) while masquerading as the opposition crippled the prospects of the alliance having their candidate elected.”

TV anchor and analyst Ahmed Qureshi said: “Alvi’s triumph confirms PTI’s political dominance in Pakistan established after the 2018 electoral win.

“It confirms that the opposition, especially Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) has lost the ability to rock the boat for PTI. And, lastly, it means that an educated, middle-class Pakistani citizen can rise to the top in Pakistan after decades of rule by feudal politicians,” said Qureshi.
PPP had pitched senior Supreme Court advocate and veteran lawmaker Aitzaz Ahsan, a well-respected politician, as its nominee. He reportedly received a collective 132 votes, leading only in the Sindh Assembly against Alvi and Rehman.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, president of the five religious party alliance and chief of his own party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, who has been elected several times as a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly since the late 1980s, failed to secure over 160 votes.
Ahsan was ineligible to vote as he is not a member of Senate, while Rehman could not vote because he is neither a member of Parliament nor the Provincial Assembly.
Islamabad-based strategic and political analyst Yasir Mehmood said: “This reaffirms a monumental victory for the PTI, a party that has defeated the dynastic and the status quo — two parties that dominated politics in Pakistan (PPP and PML-N). 
“The opposition should put aside their differences, respect and accept the institutional strength of the Parliament to ensure the smooth functioning of democratic norms,” Mehmood told Arab News.
Analysts believe that Alvi is likely to take a proactive approach in his new role, a post that is largely ceremonial.

Destiny’s child: Philippines’ Robredo refuses to rule out presidency just yet

Updated 22 September 2019

Destiny’s child: Philippines’ Robredo refuses to rule out presidency just yet

  • In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the vice president talks about her frosty relationship with Duterte and the need to ensure OFW rights

MANILA: She is one of his most vocal critics, while he never misses an opportunity to mock her in public speeches across the Philippines.

But when it comes to upholding the sanctity of their office, both President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo ensure they bring a finely scripted civility to the table.

“I do not meet him often. I do not get invited to functions in the presidential palace, but I get invited to military events. I try as much as I can to attend ... and I see the president there. Our meetings have always been cordial. The president has been very civil when we see each other,” Robredo said in an exclusive interview with Arab News in Manila.

Robredo was elected separately to Duterte and was not his running mate. Amid rumors that she is the obvious choice to take on the mantle once Duterte finishes his term, Robredo says that she is not ready to rule out the idea just yet.

“I do not rule it out completely only because of what happened during the last two elections where I ruled out running for Congress and I ruled out running for the vice-presidency, and I had to eat my words after that,” she said, adding that as far as the Philippines is concerned, it’s all about “destiny.”

“Our history has shown that a lot of people have aspired for the presidency, but have not been successful. And we have had a lot of presidents who won the elections where they had not prepared as much as the other candidates. It is something that will be given to you if it is really meant for you. So there is no point in preparing for it at this point,” she said.

In recent years, Robredo and Duterte have had a frosty relationship over issues ranging from the government’s controversial war on drugs to the Philippines ties with China.

Recently, Robredo called out Duterte for his “shoot, but don’t kill” orders.

The president made his comments on Thursday during the inauguration of the Bataan government center and business hub dubbed “The Bunker,” urging Filipinos to “shoot but not kill” public officials who were demanding money in exchange for their services and vowing to defend any person who attacked a corrupt official.

The statement drew flak from several rights organizations and, most significantly, from the vice president herself.

“I do not agree with killings per se, whether they are against drug addicts or corrupt officials. We have laws; we have the judicial system, and we should make sure that we have a strong judicial system, safe from political intrusion and corruption,” she said.

Robredo also explained why she has been at loggerheads with Duterte over his stance on the South China Sea.

Last week, she described as “reckless” his suggestion that he would consider bypassing an arbitration ruling — in favor of the Philippines — over a territorial dispute with China in order to finalize an energy pact with Beijing.

“I have always been vocal about statements by the president, which may be interpreted in a manner that would be against the constitution. It has been the reason of some friction between us. There has been a lot of confusion as far as the seriousness of the president’s remarks is concerned. Whenever he makes controversial statements, some officials around him try to correct those statements,” she said, adding that her retorts have “been a source of criticism from many of the president’s supporters.”

Adding to their constant tug-of-war is the issue of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and sending manpower to countries in the Middle East.

The issue intensified with the murder of 29-year-old Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait last year. A Syrian woman, one of Demafelis’ employers, was found guilty of her murder this month.

Following the incident, the Philippines placed a ban on sending workers to Kuwait.

Duterte lifted the ban after Demafelis’ killer was tried, and there have been efforts to negotiate the terms and conditions of labor contracts by both the countries.

“The issues in Kuwait became a little too unbearable and we entered into a memorandum of agreement last year ... it was a reaction to many of the complaints that overseas Filipinos in Kuwait have. Some say that their passports are being confiscated by employers as soon as they reach Kuwait, and there are complaints about the working conditions, hours, etc,” Robredo said.

However, the agreement was a “short-term” initiative and a more formal bilateral agreement would have been “better in the sense that both countries will be made accountable,” she said.

“This is our desire not just in Kuwait, but also in many other parts of the Middle East, and in Saudi Arabia for example, where most of our Filipino workers are. There has been a UN convention on the protection of the rights of overseas workers — migrant workers — but, unfortunately, most of the countries hosting our migrant workers are not signatories to that convention yet,” she said.

Robredo described the agreement a “work in progress,” saying “it is something that we have been working on for several years.”

The Philippines signed two agreements with Saudi Arabia — the first in 2015, and another two years later —  on labor contracts and recruitment.

According to the Philippines Statistics Authority, the Kingdom continued to be the top destination for OFWs until May this year, with an estimated 2.3 million Filipinos working there.

Remittances from the period totalled P235.9 billion ($4.5 billion), up from P205.2 billion a year earlier.

“It is our desire that the countries hosting our migrant workers will be signatories to the UN convention because at the very least, the basic rights of our workers will be protected. It is something that not just our Foreign Affairs Department is working on, but our Labor Department as well,” she said, adding that this and a few other issues are subjects on which she and the president agree.

In June this year, when both Robredo and Duterte entered the final stretch of their six-year terms, the vice president said that she wanted a “better working relationship” with the president.

It is a sentiment that she voiced strongly while talking to Arab News as well.

“I think if our meetings are to be the gauge of our relationship, we are OK. It is just that there have been a lot of side remarks, issues and criticisms outside of our meetings that I think complicates the relationship,” she said.