The party cadre adores him for being among the individuals who founded the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) with the country’s popular cricketer as its head and who has never stopped dreaming that one day his leader would become prime minister.

Now when Dr Arif Alvi has been nominated by the PTI leadership to contest next month’s presidential election, many in the PTI believe the party has taken the right decision to nominate him for the post of head of state.

Dr Alvi tweeted on Saturday after his nomination for presidential election: “Both Prime Minister @ImranKhan and I got elected from Karachi, and we are grateful to the people of Karachi for the honour and trust they have bestowed upon us.”

Dr Alvi’s career in politics spans over five decades and began with his role in student politics as a president of the student union at de’Montmorency College of Dentistry in Lahore.

Dr Alvi was part of the student movement of 1969 during Gen Ayub Khan’s military regime and, as his party men say, was among those who fought for democracy in the country.

During one of the protests on The Mall in Lahore, according to PTI activists, he was shot and wounded and “still ‘proudly’ carries a bullet embedded in his right arm as a mark of his struggle for democracy in Pakistan”.

For the first time, Arif Alvi emerged as an election candidate in 1977 when he secured a Pakistan National Alliance ticket for a Sindh Assembly seat for Karachi. However, he did not take part in the elections as they were boycotted by the opposition parties.

Born in 1949 and a dentist by profession, Dr Alvi was among more than 100 candidates who were fielded by the PTI in the 1997 elections. All the aspirants, including Imran Khan, lost, most of them to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

Dr Alvi ran in the 1997 elections from, now erstwhile, PS-114 (Clifton Karachi) but could secure only 2,000 plus votes. He contested from another constituency — PS-90 (Karachi West) — in the 2002 elections but received fewer votes (1,276) than his previous tally.

For a long time, Dr Alvi has remained the only known face of the party in Sindh as he dedicated his time, house and money for the party.

According to the PTI’s official website, he is one of its founding members and was the party’s secretary general from 2006 till 2013.

For the first time, he was elected a member of the National Assembly from the erstwhile Clifton constituency NA-250 (now NA-247) in the 2013 polls, which was the only NA seat won by the party in Sindh.

“This was despite a serious law and order situation (in Karachi), blatant rigging and threats to people not to cast their votes,” says the PTI website.

Though not as successful as his Captain, Dr Alvi has a history of playing sports. He played squash, cricket and hockey in his younger days and is still said to be a sports enthusiast.

Dr Alvi is regarded as one of the authors of the PTI’s constitution. He was part of the PTI’s central executive council for a year since 1996 and then he was appointed the party’s president in Sindh in 1997. In 2001, he was promoted to the post of vice president and then became the party’s secretary general in 2006, a post he held until 2013.

He has been re-elected to the National Assembly from the same Clifton constituency now called NA-247 (Karachi South-II) in the July 25 general election.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2018

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