On Tuesday, September 5th, Pakistan appointed a new president. Arif Alvi, a member and co-founder of the Pakistan Tereek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of which newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan is a part of, was chosen over two other candidates representing each the conservative (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) and socialist (Pakistan People’s Party) parties.
His appointment as president comes without surprise given his political affiliation and close relationship to Imran Khan. He has held several leadership positions with PTI over the years including being a part of the party’s central executive council as well as the president of PTI in Sindh province in 1997. As such, we can presume that, like Khan, Alvi is a Sharia-supremacist and generally supports Khan’s favorable position towards blasphemy laws, the Taliban, and the Islamic Republic’s extreme religious right generally speaking.
This presumption about Pakistan’s new president is further bolstered by his well-documented affiliation with Islamist radical group Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) which has for decades served as the Muslim Brotherhood’s close affiliate in South Asia and is linked to a multitude of terror organizations. While growing up, Alvi’s father, Habib Ur Rehman Elahi Alvi, was also a close aide of Sharia supremacist JeI founder Syed Abul A’la Maudoodi. From the late 1960s into the 1970s, Alvi was heavily involved with the Islami Jamiat Talaba, the student wing of JeI in Pakistan. In 1979, he ran for office in the Sindh as a member of JeI; however, elections were eventually cancelled.
JeI was also sure to send Alvi an official congratulations with their full confidence he will “uphold the supremacy of the constitution”, a constitution that supports vile blasphemy laws in in near exclusive favor of the nation’s majority religion and allows for the propagation of Islamic radicalism virtually unchecked.
Pakistan’s choice for its next president presents just one more reason why the United States should sincerely re-evaluate its close relationship with the Islamic Republic. Alvi’s history of association with radical Islamist entities, and his clear support of the problematic views and affiliations of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, demonstrate legitimate concern for US security interests in the region. Alvi’s selection as president, like Khan’s election, sends an increasingly clear message from Pakistan that Islamic radicalism will continue to be tolerated and terror will be the norm for the foreseeable future.