ISLAMABAD: A day after advising political parties to halt political activities to focus on mitigating the suffering of flood-hit people, President Arif Alvi on Saturday called for engaging public on national issues, saying “politics and floods are not a zero sum situation”.

Clarifying his statement for mobilising the nation to come to aid of the flood victims, President Alvi said political activities and engaging the public in national discourse and issues confronted by the nation was also important to motivate and encourage them to play their role in mitigating the effects of the calamity faced by the nation.

He then called upon political leaders to do their best to expedite efforts to mobilise the international community, and national resources and the to prioritise relief activities, continue economic repair and mobilise philanthropic response to alleviate the sufferings of flood victims.

Earlier on Friday, he urged politicians to pause political activities owing to the devastating floods, saying any narrative that created divisions within national institutions was not in the national interest.

The comments came amid the federal government’s criticism of former prime minister and PTI chief Imran Khan for holding rallies at a time when floods had wreaked havoc across the country.

Dr Alvi said as president he did not have a constitutional obligation to play a role to defuse the current political polarisation, but he would volunteer in his personal capacity to mediate between political parties over major issues like the next general elections, a consensus-based charter of economy, and the way forward on making key appointments.

However, his fresh statement drew ire of the ruling coalition that saw it as a clear deviation from his previous stance, with PPP and PML-N leaders Raza Rabbani and Irfan Siddiqui, respectively, blaming the president for indulging in party politics.

Mr Rabbani, who is former Senate chairman, chided Dr Alvi for “taking a u-turn a day after calling for political ceasefire during the floods after being rapped on his knuckles by Imran Khan”. The office of the president represents the federation and there is no political role of the president, he said, referring to various court decisions in this regard. “Unfortunately, Dr Alvi has not grown in the office of the president. He was and continues to be a PTI worker,” he remarked.

The PPP leader said his role as president had been controversial, which was also evident from the fact that he backtracked on his remarks about political ceasefire.

PML-N leader Irfan Siddiqui said the president from day one has acted as a loyal PTI worker and referred to the role he had played during the no-confidence move against the then PM Khan. He said his remarks about suspending political activities during floods were positive, but he retracted the same.

Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2022

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