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—File Photo.
—File Photo.

ISLAMABAD: With the departure of President Asif Ali Zardari now just a matter of time, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will have to choose the man (or woman) who will now occupy the presidency.

With its comfortable win in the May elections, the PML-N enjoys the numbers to unilaterally choose the next president — without any allies or outside support.

However, it is still not clear who will be Mr Sharif’s choice even though the election is slated to be held in less than three weeks from now, on Aug 6.

The prime minister and his party have not said much about the issue. Hence, the names that are doing the rounds are far from confirmed.

However, some assumptions can be made to narrow down the possible choices confronting the prime minister.

To begin with, analysts are of the view that the generous allocation of cabinet slots to PML-N favourites from Lahore as well as other parts of Punjab, the post of the president will go to someone from a smaller province.

Having given the speakership of the National Assembly to a Punjabi lawmaker from Lahore and Sharif’s decision to keep the premiership with himself, it is only politically feasible that the president’s slot be filled by a non-Punjabi.

However, regardless of the ethnic background, chances are that the individual will be a party loyalist.

After all, so far all of Nawaz Sharif’s choices have shared one trait – loyalty to the party and its leader. The cabinet choices are a case in point.

Pairing together these two conditions, various names are doing the rounds, though the final decision will be made by Mr Sharif himself, with perhaps some input from his brother Mian Shahbaz Sharif.

One of the prominent hopefuls is Sartaj Aziz, a resident of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who at present is serving as adviser to the prime minister on national security and foreign affairs.

Not only does he fulfil the condition of providing representation to a smaller province, he is also trusted by the Sharifs. During their last stint in power, he served as finance minister as well as foreign minister.

He was even asked about his chances during a press conference on Wednesday.

He said the decision lay with the party, but it was clear that he was not averse to the idea.

However, his elevation to the presidency will create problems for the party as the PML-N will lose its most qualified member for the foreign affairs slot.

Since the PML-N took over the charge, Sartaj Aziz has had his hands full with the foreign affairs portfolio.

The name of Zafar Iqbal Jhagra, general secretary of the PML-N, who also hails from KP, is also being mentioned. However, not many are willing to consider him a serious contender.

NAMES FROM SINDH: Interestingly, several names from Sindh are doing the rounds — Mamnoon Hussain, who was Sindh governor from June 1999 to October 1999 when the PML-N was in power is in the race; names of veteran Muslim Leaguer and former Sindh chief minister Ghous Ali Shah and Mumtaz Bhutto, who joined the PML-N just before the general elections, are also being mentioned.

After the departure of President Zardari, no Sindhi will be in any constitutional position at the federal level —Speaker and Deputy Speaker of National Assembly, Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Senate, prime minister and Chief Justice. This is why some observers point out that PML-N may be interested in choosing someone from Sindh for the presidency.

As it is, the PPP has already accused the PML-N of ignoring the province.

But even if Sharif does choose someone from Sindh, Mumtaz Bhutto’s chances are not seen as very high. However, though the choice of president will be made by Mr Sharif after lengthy deliberations, it is also one that need not have many political ramifications as it did in the past.

After passage of the 18th amendment, the president’s position is simply a ceremonial one.

If the presidency was the centre of attention and of decision-making during the past five years, it was due to Zardari’s position as co-chairman of the PPP.

Although he had generously encouraged transfer of power to parliament, Mr Zardari still held all the strings of power from 2008 to 2013. But now that Nawaz Sharif is prime minister, his office will be where all the political action is going to be since he heads his party as well.

No wonder then that till Mr Sharif himself takes a decision, there will be no clarity about the next president.

More than one PML-N leader confirmed that most names doing the rounds were the result of overactive imagination. One of them said: “Mian Nawaz Sharif may have decided who will be the next president, but nobody in the party has any clue about the face which will grace the presidency over the next five years.”

Comments (33) Closed

sadruddin mitha Jul 21, 2013 09:56am

the President of Paksitan should be from Baluchistan only. this will give impetus to the fact that it is a part of Paksitan and respected in every real sense.

mazharuddin Jul 21, 2013 11:13am

Mamnoon Hussain the previous governor of Sindh is deserved and should be accepted by all. During his tenure Sindh was moving ahead, business and industries were growing. No target killing and such serious killings of 11000 to that coalition government of PPP failed to control and failed to bring responsible to trial. This governments first priority should be to apprehend all culprits with identification of their names and having link with political organizations. This tendency must come to an end shedding crocodiles tears but need to bring killers to trial.

Dr Imran Ahmed Jul 21, 2013 11:13am

My choices for Pakistan's next President would be either Pervez Hoodhboy or Javed Hashmi. We need an emblem of integrity, probity and inclusiveness - not a politician who polarizes, not a sectarian figure. Nasir Aslam Zahid is a third name.

Anees Jul 21, 2013 11:25am

From Sindh? Is the current one from Balochistan or Kashmir?

aslam minhas Jul 21, 2013 12:28pm

So long as it is not him, anyone from Sindh would be acceptable.

Malik Arif Jul 21, 2013 01:03pm

This is no criteria Sindh, Bal or KPK. Country should not be run like this. Only a person who meet merits and deserve such slot must be given. We being nation should not divide ourselves as Sindhi, Pukhtoon, balochi or others. Since last 65 years same thing we are doing and can see the result of such thinking. Please change your mind and be a nation....

Muhammad Younus Butt Jul 21, 2013 01:56pm

We the residents of Lahore propose to elect the next president of Pakistan from Baluchistan.

Kayman Jul 21, 2013 02:29pm

The President of Pakistan should be a Pakistani and all the people making noises of Sindhi, Punjabi, Baluchi etc should not be even considered for personal secretary as these people have to realise by now...It is Pakistan or nothing Pakistan is for Pakistani's only

muna azam Jul 21, 2013 02:39pm

It is not possible

ahmedj Jul 21, 2013 03:16pm

The president is the symbol of national unity and he has to be impartial. However, this impartiality cannot be ordained as nomination of this ceremonial post is always political even though it has to be non-political. Current activities in presidency which had become the Headquarters of PPP's political meddling have completely tarnished the decorum of this high esteem institution.

In an Islamic Republic like Pakistan, the Head of the State should be a spiritual devout leader who is respected and loved. This figurehead has to be above petty politics. The importance of the king or sultan in an Islamic country can be visualised that it is his duty to lead prayers especially Juma and Eid congregation.

In Pakistan, this respected authority has to be revitalised according to true Islamic spiritual injunction and to gain high opinion and recognition, firstly the president has to lead (Imamat) weekly Friday/Juma and Eid prayers with Khutba. Rules of leading congregation and Khutba have to be followed. This practise is the duty of the Head of an Islamic country.

All sects, mainly Sunni and Shias could be encouraged to offer together such congregation behind the president.

Such a requirement for a Head of State in Pakistan would close the doors on individuals like Zardari and Musharaf as Head of the State. This would also keep the president away from political fiddling.

Since the president's ceremonial appointment is more of a selection in the name of election. The most learned scholar could be appointed and he could take Pakistan out of fanatic religious quagmire with the help of various national educational institutions.

Mustafa Jul 21, 2013 03:32pm

Mahmood Khan Achakzai?

genuine Leaguee Jul 21, 2013 03:56pm

@Dr Imran Ahmed: I think Asif Ali Zardari is still a best choice among all the available & even imaginable candidates. Visioery, polite & humble, son of soil , & probably only living political activist. The only drawback is that he's from PPP. Although he is gona be remembered for his great constitutional work .

Khan Jul 21, 2013 04:38pm

@genuine Leaguee: I think as a bare minimum President of the country should feel comfortable with the national language and Mr Zardari apparently doesn;t. So thanks for your views but the nation would be best served if his current visit lasts forever.

zia khan Jul 21, 2013 04:56pm

@genuine Leaguee: and for corruption.

Rogers Evans Jul 21, 2013 04:57pm

The new President should be from Balochistan. It will keep Balochistan in hand and help resolve its problems. The past presidents have been from Punjab, Sndh and KP.

Aung San Suu Jul 21, 2013 06:09pm

@genuine Leaguee: Troll.

Aung San Suu Jul 21, 2013 06:13pm

@Dr Imran Ahmed: Pervez Hoodbhoy is not an Ismaeli, therefore he doesn't qualify for a 'good' Pakistani. You can cross him off. P.s. I couldn't agree more with you on these choices.

Javed Anwar Jul 21, 2013 06:24pm

@ahmedj: I agree with this idea.

mohsin Jul 21, 2013 07:03pm

the next president should be from Baluchistan

Syed Ahmed Jul 21, 2013 07:23pm

@Malik Arif: Under the circumstances Musharraf will be the most suitable candidate - NRO-2 will be required.

TKhan Jul 21, 2013 07:27pm

The next President of Pakistan should be a well liked person who who understands the culture and languages spoken by all provinces. Since Moin Akhtar is sadly no longer with us, I will settle for Omar Sharif; is well appreciated by almost all!

On the second note why can't we have a non-Muslim President?

Dr Rahman Jul 21, 2013 08:17pm

Since it is no more than a ceremonial post but does carry large stick! The most neglected province has been Baluchistan. Respected prime minister, do consider someone from the province of Baluchistan and bring back the dignity of the province so that the masses feel, they do belong!........ thank you.

Hamid Jul 21, 2013 09:02pm

Justice Wajihuddin, PTI's candidate and a senior member of the party, is a great choice and in an ideal world, PML-N would support him too. This same gentleman, a former Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court who resigned from office instead of taking oath under Musharraf's PCO, was nominated by the lawyers' community as a presidential nominee against Musharraf in 2007.

He's an apt choice for the presidential post, as the president ought to be someone who knows how to sit at the helm and act in a fair, impartial manner without unnecessary adventurism but with keen oversight. But we all know that this time around, PML-N doesn't even need to rig the electoral process in order to deny PTI a well-deserved victory.

naz Jul 21, 2013 10:24pm

@Dr Imran Ahmed:-------not Hashmi saheb as he says anything without thinking then comes appology,no doubt he is able ,son of the soil ,honest and all good things and abikities.

edwardian Jul 21, 2013 10:36pm

@ahmedj: Examples are the Supreme Leader of Iran and King of Saudi Arabia.

Khalid Jul 21, 2013 11:18pm

I wonder if merit figures into selecting a President anywhere?. We hear about "trusted" president !!. What we need is a President who will represent the people of Pakistan. If the qualification is for the President to be "trusted" by the ruling party, that clearly means that everything else is secondary in importance. A puppet President is NOT what we need. Sadly, I have not heard ONCE what the qualifications of a President should be and neither have I seen the word "merit".

Muzaffar Qureshi Jul 21, 2013 11:36pm

I vote for Parvez Hoodbhoy.

marghoobahmedsiddiqui Jul 21, 2013 11:46pm

What experience of foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz posses? In my opinion Mr. Zafrullah Jamali from Baluchistan deserves to be the next President of Pakistan.

ijaz Jul 22, 2013 12:59am

Sanaullah Zehri for President

khan Jul 22, 2013 01:22am

@Rogers Evans: I agree 100%. The Baluchistan should see a light at the end of the tunnel. I hope they pick a wise man this time.

Dante's Inferno Jul 22, 2013 02:01am

How about Meera?

Waseem Jul 22, 2013 12:47pm

@sadruddin mitha:

Taha Soomro President and Farid Khan Deputy President .

Muhammad Asif Jul 22, 2013 01:03pm

The writer forgot to mention Justic retired Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui (from Sindh). He should be a direct and simple choice given that he was PML(N) candidate in last presidential election. If he was the best choice then, how come he is not the best now.

If he is not given the slot, N-league's seriousness and intentions (of that time) would become doubtful (ke jab apko jeetne ki umeed na ho to imandar admi ko nominate karo, aur ab jeet confirmed hey to imandari choro aur wafadari dhoondho).