ISLAMABAD - Unlike his predecessors, President Mamnoon Hussain enjoys rare distinction on the ladder as the 12th Head of State owing to his election following the historic democratic transition in the country. This was unprecedented in chequered parliamentary history since inception of Pakistan.

The 74-year-old Mamnoon Hussain was elected as President in a landslide victory on September 9, 2013. Since then he has been in full gear to discharge his official duties amid praise and criticism. His critics call him as invisible President and a yes man to the Prime Minister Sharif. He is apolitical President as compared to his immediate predecessor Asif Ali Zardari. As the President is to represent the unity of the Republic, it is important that the persona of the President should be non-partisan, non-political. That is why President Mamnoon Hussain resigned from his party when he was elected as the President. Since he does not belong to any particular political party now, he is open to all and he is the President for all regardless of any party affiliations or any other consideration, maintains his chief spokesperson Saba Mohsin Raza.

Strongly rejecting the notion of him being invisible, she says it is perhaps not a correct perception for the reason that our constitution has very clearly outlined the role of the President. In the democratic set-up, the executive power rests with the prime minister as he is the head of the government so naturally and understandably the volume of news generated from the office of the head of government is much greater than that of the head of state. She went on to say that the incumbent President has a keen interest in promotion of education, women empowerment, health and other issues that directly relate to the youth of Pakistan. The President in addition to his other engagements is always forthcoming when it is any issue concerning education especially. Besides having regular meetings with the heads of the academic institutions, the President encourages all activities that are aimed to promote education in the country. It is perhaps the first time in our history that the President is so frequently participating in the convocation ceremonies of academic institutions which indeed has become a regular part of President’s daily schedule. Again, keeping aside the security and other concerns, the President himself visits the universities so as to encourage the universities to play even greater role towards nation-building effort.

Asked how does she compare him with other Presidents including Muhammad Rafique Tarar and Fazl Elahi Chauhdry, she said she would prefer saying that a constitutionally elected President performing his role within the ambit of constitution is not only good for democracy but also for the nation in its struggle to strengthen democratic norms and promoting democratic culture and rule of law. As per Constitution, President is the head of state and symbol of unity of the Republic. He exercises his functions in accordance with the advice of the cabinet or the prime minister. The President is an integral part of the Parliament, who is approached for the requisition of the National Assembly and the Senate sessions. There is a need to create awareness among intelligentsia, academicians, and media about the constitutional role of the head of state in a democratic set-up. More importantly, for the socio-economic development of Fata and uplift of its people, the President has held so far a number of meetings with Governor KP, FATA elders, parliamentarians, and people from other walks of life hailing from Fata at Aiwan-i-Sadr and in Peshawar. Soon after assumption of the office, the President invited tribal elders from Fata and held a Grand Tribal Jirga in December 2013. Another Grand Jirga followed it during his visit to Peshawar in January 2014.

A cursory look on his engagements concerning Fata suggests that the socio-economic betterment of the people of Fata and bringing them into mainstream of national life is among the top priorities of the President. The President firmly believes in engaging the people and supporting them in finding solutions to their problems. Keeping in view the peculiar circumstances of Fata, reform process in that area is a long and continuous process. However, during the Jirga in Jan 2014, the President had instructed the authorities of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd (SNGPL) to devise a complete programme for provision of natural gas to the tribal agencies and the frontier regions with the collaboration of Fata Secretariat so that this basic utility could be supplied to these areas at the earliest. He also instructed the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) to establish well-equipped schools throughout the tribal agencies to impart quality education. In the first instance, as per his directions, these schools would be set up in Khyber, Bajaur and Kurram agencies. He also directed the Fata Secretariat to allocate suitable land immediately for this purpose. The President also announced upgrading of the Boys Degree College Landi Kotal and also made a hint that soon Jamrud Degree College would also be upgraded. Announcing other incentives for the Fata people, he said 10 students hailing from the tribal belt would be given scholarships to diligently pursue their studies in federal universities. To provide health facilities to the tribesmen, he announced establishment of a general hospital. He also directed the OPF to train 300 young tribal people so that they could benefit from the overseas job opportunities.

President Mamnoon, to the loud appreciation of huge gathering of tribesmen, said he had also directed the Finance Division to provide Rs100million each for Shuhada (martyrs) and the internally-displaced persons (IDPs). Moreover, the Finance Division and other departments had been directed by the President to immediately sanction 350 vacancies for Fata in the first phase. On the direction of the President, a Fata Cell has been established at the Aiwan-i-Sadr to coordinate among all the relevant departments and resolve the issues being faced by the tribesmen. The President also takes keen interest to eradicate the menace of polio particularly in Fata. He takes briefings from the Ministry of Health and WHO on a regular basis to resolve the issue of polio threat. The President has issued instructions to the Ministry of Health to fight against the crippling disease through a well-devised strategy to save the future generations. On the other hand, Senator Farhatullah Babar, chief spokesperson for the former President Zardari says both the former President and the incumbent are constitutional heads having same powers and responsibilities. However, he says that a study of the tenure of the two presidents is also a study in contrasts. “It demonstrates that even within the same constitutional parameters the roles and functions have been vastly different,” he added. As head of the political party leading the coalition government the former President was perceived to be calling major political shots and appeared to set and lead the political agendas. The incumbent is a nominee of his political party following the political agenda of his party. The former appeared to lead from the front; the incumbent is seen merely toeing the political line. The constituents elect both. By having a major say in the award of party tickets for national and provincial assemblies and the Senate, the former president appeared to determine the composition of the electoral college of the President. The incumbent by contrast has no such advantage. Asif Zardari raised the bar of tolerance towards political opposition, the media and a very assertive judiciary to such heights that any successor of him will find it difficult to maintain.

Asif Zardari has been through the mill, literally walking up from the gallows to the Presidency. The incumbent has just walked in from one position of comfort to a relatively more comfortable position. Such vast difference in fortunes makes equally vast difference in the life’s approaches and achievements.