Pakistan’s new President Mamnoon Hussain hasn’t forgotten his birthplace. In his first interview after having won the election, 73-year-old Hussain told BBC Urdu on Thursday that he wanted to be a part of the peace process that the Nawaz Sharif government hopes to continue with India and said he would love to visit his birthplace Agra to see the Taj Mahal.
That Hussain was born in Agra in 1940 and his family migrated to Karachi after the partition of 1947 has become a much repeated fact in both Indian and Pakistani media. “That is because there is so little that can be written about this man who has made a virtue of remaining low profile. Sharif has clearly rewarded him for his loyalty,” says a Pakistani journalist friend.
Interest in Hussain is also muted as the office of the President of Pakistan is a titular one with no real powers. Pervez Musharraf during his tenure as the President of Pakistan arrogated enormous powers to the office. These were stripped under his successor Asif Ali Zardari, who remained in the news for all the wrong reasons – allegations of corruption against him and his run-ins with the judiciary. Zardari opted not to contest this election and will be demitting office to Hussain at the end of his five year term on September 08.
But Hussain, a Karachi based businessman, is neither a Musharraf nor Zardari. One of his business rivals was quoted in the Pakistani media describing Hussain as “docile”. His family is into textile business with their office in Karachi’s Allahwali market. Observers of Pakistani politics say Hussain’s election suited Sharif, as the man was a die hard loyalist. Hussain hails from the Urdu speaking community and his election as the President will help Sharif, whose influence is predominantly among Punjabis, reach out to the Urdu speakers.
Hussain’s experience of holding public offices has been brief. He was the governor of Sindh for barely five months from June to October 1999, but quit after the Musharraf-led coup that overthrew the Sharif government in Islamabad and imposed military rule across the country.
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But unlike many leaders in Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) who abandoned him and the party during that crisis, Hussain stood like a rock with Sharif. “It is this loyalty that Sharif has repaid,” said a Pakistani journalist. Hussain contested the 2002 election but lost by a huge margin.
Hussain joined the Muslim League in Karachi in the 1960s and became joint secretary of the Karachi chapter in 1969. Hussain has been more active in the party since 1993, focusing on running his family business before that and was active in the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In the election, which became a two horse race after the PPP’s boycott, Hussain received 432 votes of the electoral college comprising members of the two houses of Parliament – the Senate and National Assembly – and the four provincial assemblies, defeating Justice (retired) Wajihuddin Ahmed of former cricketer Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. He resigned from his membership of PML-N after winning the election in a symbolic gesture to project himself as a non-partisan President. PPP and several other parties boycotted the election as it was brought ahead from his earlier scheduled date of August 06 due to Ramazan.
In his first interview after winning the election, Hussain appealed to all political parties to stop backing criminals, land-grabbers and extortionists so that the law and order situation in Karachi improves. He also asked all intelligence agencies to increase cooperation to fight the menace of crime in Karachi.