President Dr Arif Alvi faces a critical question this week: Will he go home after completing his five-year tenure on Friday (September 8)? Or will he take the absence of assemblies -- dissolved last month -- as an opportunity to remain the President until a new assembly can elect his replacement?
Usually, when their tenure nears the end, holders of high-public offices give a clear indication of leaving their offices and embark on a series of farewell calls.
But with just hours left until his constitutional term culminates, things at the Presidency are relatively calm. President Dr Arif Alvi has not given any signal to either his staff or other government officials on whether he will leave the Presidency on Friday.
Hence, legal and constitutional experts have told The Friday Times that it appears he will likely avail existing Constitutional provisions to remain in office as the head of state until the next elections.
Senior legal expert Ahmed Awais told The Friday Times that at the moment, the way Pakistan's Constitution has been framed, there are clear provisions that allow Dr Alvi to remain in office after his tenure ends. He added that impeachment is the only legal means to remove Dr Alvi from the office of the President.
"Impeachment in the current political scenario is not possible as all the assemblies have been dissolved," he said, adding that President Alvi can remain in office until a new president is elected.
Awais quoted Article 44 of the Constitution and explained how it allows Arif Alvi to stay in office even after his five-year term expires.
Article 44 (1) of the Constitution states that the President shall continue to hold his office even after his term expires until such a time that the assembly elects a new president into office.
After the completion of the electoral college, comprising the Senate, the National Assembly and all the provincial assemblies, the 14th President of the country will be elected.
Thus, until a newly elected parliament votes in the 14th President of the country into office, Dr Alvi can continue to be the President, and he cannot be legally removed from office by any authority.
Former Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) secretary Kanwar Dilshad told The Friday Times that President Arif Alvi could stay in office until the new president assumes charge. He noted that Article 44 (1) of the Constitution grants Dr Alvi legal cover to remain in office.
Should the next general elections get delayed past March 2024, the Senate will be halved as members elected in 2018 come to the end of their tenure. And with no assemblies elected by then, there will be no electoral college to elect new Senators. Incumbent Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and Deputy Chairman Mirza Muhammad Afridi will also see their tenure as elected members expire in March 2024.
Meanwhile, sources in the Presidency say that thus far, President Dr Alvi has not given any indication of leaving office upon the expiry of his term on September 8.
They said the President has yet to alter his office routine.
They pointed to how President Dr Alvi had engrossed himself in matters of national importance, including determining a date for general elections.
The meetings with Caretaker Federal Minister for Law and Justice Ahmed Irfan Aslam are evidence of the fact that Dr Alvi has dug in for an extended tenure.
Meeting with the law minister
About the meeting with Aslam, sources said the President was informed about his Constitutional limits on announcing the schedule for general elections.
Aslam gave Dr Alvi a detailed briefing on the law and how he could not intervene or order the top election body to announce a schedule for general elections.
The Ministry of Law and Justice informed President Dr Alvi, who had asked the Election Commission of Pakistan to affix a date for the general election, that powers to announce the poll date rest with the ECP, not the President.
He was conveyed that after the amendments to the Elections Act 2017, the President no longer has the power to determine the election date.