A new president

President Mamnoon Hussain. PHOTO: AFP

President Mamnoon Hussain. PHOTO: AFP

THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, 10th SEPTEMBER 2013:-The new President, Mamnoon Hussain, and his predecessor, Asif Ali Zardari, are as different as chalk and cheese. Mr Zardari left office having been a divisive, even polarising, president, but nonetheless a president unique in that he held office for a full five years and oversaw a peaceful democratic transition from one civilian government to another. He also curtailed some of the powers of the presidential position and it is into this diluted post that President Mamnoon Hussain now steps. He has none of the charisma of Mr Zardari, indeed he is to a large extent, a political unknown beyond being a PML-N loyalist since 1999. Born in Agra in pre-Partition India, he comes from a family of shoe traders but is now engaged in the textile business. He gained a degree from the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi and is a past chairman of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He was briefly and unmemorably governor of Sindh from June-October 1999, a post gifted to him by Nawaz Sharif, who saw him as a safe pair of hands untainted by corruption and the grubby world of politics.

Beyond the bald facts above, there is little to mark Mr Hussain as presidential material. His predecessor ran the country through a succession of what were essentially puppet prime ministers, appointed with his approval. That is not going to happen with Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N firmly in the driving seat and President Hussain will have been appointed more for his lack of a public profile than because of it. His role will be purely ceremonial and anything he says in public is likely to have been tightly scripted. There is nothing to suggest that he has statesmanlike ambitions, nor anything in his background to suggest that he has the competencies that might underpin such ambitions were he to have them. As a statesman, Mr Zardari may not have been an outright success, while President Hussain can probably be relied upon never to rock the boat, smile in the right places, shake hands reasonably competently and retire quietly into the background. Colourless perhaps, but maybe the right president for the times.

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