By Umar Cheema
ISLAMABAD: Finally, President Dr Arif Alvi has quietly shifted to the President House leaving behind his pledges that he wouldn’t live at this palatial residence. His spokesman confirmed this and explained he did so after finding no other suitable option.
Alvi claimed after his nomination for the top office that he would stay in the Parliament Lodges instead of settling in the presidency. This was the time when rhetoric would reign supreme as PM Imran Khan had said he would feel ashamed living in a palace-like PM House but finally decided to reside there, though occupied the residence reserved for his military secretary.
As Alvi was elected, he was again asked whether he would live in the Presidency or somewhere outside, his tone sounded a bit changed as he said that “I’m still living in the Parliament Lodges.” He was shifted to Punjab House after his election, it is learnt.
The residential area of the presidency is comprised of four floors and each of them is spread over 11000 sq ft.
Tahir Khushnood, president’s spokesman, said Alvi tried all options in order to stay outside the presidency but had to shift there considering it the most feasible option. In the beginning, Tahir said, President applied for the residence at Parliament Lodges. An application was moved to the National Assembly Speaker for the purpose that he refused to entertain. The speaker said the lodges are reserved for the lawmakers only thus President can’t live there.
The Ministers’ Enclave was the next option and there was a house vacant, the spokesman said. As the cost of renovation and security was estimated, it turned out Rs 89 million, Tahir explained. It was then decided that President should live in the presidency, according to the spokesman.
The president is living at the ground floor. Again, he is living in the half area of the ground floor which consists of three bed rooms, the spokesman said, and comprised of 4500 sq ft. Whether the vacant area will be used by the president or somebody else remains to be seen as technically the entire four-floor complex is residential area reserved for the President and his family’s use only.Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is the only PM who stayed at his private residence and nobody knew. The public came to know about his austerity without publicity only after the debate started by PTI government.
Where would President, PM, Governors and Chief Ministers would live remained the hot topic of discussion after the PTI formed the government. The debate triggered after Imran Khan’s promise forced others to follow the bid. Initially, it was decided that Imran would live at his palatial Banigala residence. Then it was decided he would stay at the Ministers’ Enclave. Again, the decision was changed. A new announcement said he would live at Punjab House and then finally he moved to the PM House.
Former PM Nawaz Sharif had also announced to stay out of PM House when elected to power in 1997. He had announced to convert the PM House into university. A committee formed to study the plan voted against the conversion as it is situated in red zone and an educational institution means opening the area to public that could have security implications.
Nawaz Sharif had resolved again when voted to power in 2013. This time, his security turned out to be the main issue as deployment at the place of his residence and on his transportation to and from office would cost more than the expenses estimated for residing in the PM House.