Muhammad Rafiq Tarar, a former Judge of the Supreme Court and a Senator, was elected as the ninth President of Pakistan. He took oath to his office on January 1, 1998.
The office of the President had become vacant after the resignation of President Leghari on December 2, 1997. The Pakistan Muslim League had a two-third majority in the Parliament and some Provincial Assemblies and therefore was in a position to have its candidate elected as the head of State. The Nawaz Government nominated Muhammad Rafiq Tarar, a 68-year old former Judge of the Supreme Court and a Senator, as their presidential candidate.
The nomination of Muhammad Rafiq Tarar was, however, criticized by the opposition parties and newspapers because the nominated President was from Lahore, which was also the hometown of the Prime Minister. Many that felt that, since the Prime Minister was from Punjab, the President should be from a smaller province to prevent the possibility of a sense of deprivation among the smaller federating units, and to avoid the concentration of the main Government offices in one province.
The election of the President was held on December 31, 1997. The President was to be indirectly elected by the two houses of Parliament, the National Assembly and the Senate, and the four Provincial Assemblies. As the ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League dominated most of the six voting groups; Muhammad Rafiq Tarar was comfortably elected President by securing 374 out of 457 votes of the Electoral College. His rivals, Pakistan Peoples Party’s Aftab Shahban Mirani and Jamiyat-i-Ulema-i-Islam’s Maulana Muhammad Khan Shirani, ended up only with 31 and 22 votes, respectively. Never before had a President received such overwhelming support from the elected representatives of the people of Pakistan.
Rafiq Tarar seemed to be an unassuming and ceremonial President with a low profile, who kept away from the press. Immediately after taking over, he declared that from then onwards, the Presidency would not work in conspiring against the elected Government. He said that he would confine himself to powers available to him under the Constitution and would not aspire for anything more. He honored his word, and unlike the precedent set by his predecessors, he didn’t criticize any Government policy.
After overthrowing the Nawaz Government, the military authorities did not retain Rafiq Tarar as the President till his full term of five years. He was removed by the Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf on June 20, 2001, who himself took over the office of the President of Pakistan.
Being associated with the Judiciary, Muhammad Rafiq Tarar was not a politician of any standing but he was, however, noted for his honesty, loyalty, devotion to justice and a firm, religious faith in Islam.