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Secretary hits back hours after Alvi seeks his removal

This photograph released on August 10, 2023, shows President Arif Alvi signing the dissolution of the National Assembly, in Lahore. — PID
This photograph released on August 10, 2023, shows President Arif Alvi signing the dissolution of the National Assembly, in Lahore. — PID

ISLAMABAD: In another twist to constitutional crisis following the denial of President Dr Arif Alvi of signing the Official Secret Amendment Bill 2023 and Pakistan Army Amendment Act 2023, the President Secretariat on Monday sought replacement of the secretary to president stating that his services were no more required

The official announcement from the Presidency stated that in view of the definite statement of Sunday, President’s Secretariat has written a letter to the principal secretary to the prime minister that the services of Waqar Ahmed, secretary to the president, are no more required and are surrendered to the Establishment Division, immediately.

It has also been desired that Ms Humaira Ahmed, a BPS-22 officer of thePakistan Administrative Service, may be posted as secretary to the president. Hours after his removal’s request as secretary to the president, Waqar Ahmed issued a statement saying that President Alvi neither assented to the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill 2023, and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2023 nor gave a written decision for returning them to Parliament for reconsideration, Geo News reported.

In a letter sent to the president, Ahmed stated that the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill was received on August 2 and sent to the president on August 3. President Alvi, he added, had the 10-day time to advise on the bill till August 11.

“The Honourable President neither assented to the Bill nor gave a written decision for returning the Bill for reconsideration by the Parliament. The said file has not been returned to the Office of Secretary to date i.e. 21.08-2023,” the letter stated.

Meanwhile, the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill was received on August 8 and was moved to the president’s office on August 9. “It was clearly stated in the Note that the Prime Minister’s advice was received on 08-08-2023 and time of 10 days will be completed on 17.08.2023 (Thursday),” the letter also stated.

However, the letter added that the president neither assented to the bill nor gave a written decision for returning the bill for reconsideration by Parliament. Waqar Ahmad said he wanted to present the facts as the impression was given that the secretary was responsible for any irregularity related to the bills.

The secretary further said that he “neither delayed above mentioned two bills nor committed any irregularity or negligence”. He added that the files of the bills are still lying in the President’s Office as of today (August 21). He said that the president’s decision for the surrender of his services is not based on justice.

“I request that the Honourable President may kindly order an inquiry by FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) or any other Agency to probe the facts and fix the responsibility for any lapse if committed by any officer or official,” he said.

“If the Supreme Court or any other court calls me for clarification on the subject bill, I will present record to prove my innocence.” He stated, “You are aware of all the facts about above mentioned two bills and reality is that I am neither responsible for delay nor undermined office of the President. I can give any statement on oath.”

“It is requested that U.O. dated 21-08-2023 regarding surrendering of my services to the Establishment Division may kindly be withdrawn,” he added. However, the content of the letter, which is available with the News and even on other media, could not be verified till filing of the report, while the copy of the letter is available with the media outlets is unsigned.

Meanwhile, Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan told Geo News that the president sent both army and secrets bills on Sunday. “Both bills were received by received by Prime Minister’s House yesterday,” said the AGP said on Monday.

He said that both the bill were in an envelope, adding that they were not signed by the president and no covering letter was attached to them. To a question that if the president could be grilled in light of the facts and his viewpoint, the AG said that the president has got immunity and if he removes his immunity he could be questioned.

After that caretaker Law Minister Ahmad Aslam Irfan also met the attorney general. According to sources the interim law minister also met Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial.

When Irfan was contacted to confirm his meeting with the CJP, he said that it was a courtesy call. Earlier, President Alvi had wrote on X, previously known as Twitter, “As God is my witness, I did not sign Official Secrets Amendment Bill 2023 & Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2023 as I disagreed with these laws.

“I asked my staff to return the bills unsigned within stipulated time to make them ineffective. I confirmed from them many times that whether they have been returned & was assured that they were.

“However I have found out today [Monday] that my staff undermined my will and command. As Allah knows all, He will forgive IA. But I ask forgiveness from those who will be effected,” he had added.

On Saturday, it was reported that the president had signed the bills approved by the National Assembly and the Senate, after which both bills became law. However, on Sunday, the president denied signing the bills.

It is pertinent to mention here that soon after the bills became law, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan was booked in the cipher case. The party’s senior leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi was arrested from his residence in the same case.

Following the president’s surprising revelations, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) demanded his resignation.

PPP spokesperson Faisal Karim Kundi termed the incident “unfortunate” and lamented that the president issued an apology “24 hours after it was reported on the media that he did”.

“I believe that such a person is not fit to remain in the Presidency. This person does not know what’s happening. He does not even know who has bypassed him,” the PPP leader added.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party leader Shazia Marri said that President Alvi’s behavior is yet another incident to tarnish the reputation of the country as earlier he has dissolved the National Assembly in an unconstitutional manner last year.

“No president in the world deals with constitutional issues through social media and dismissal of constitutional responsibility through social media or tweet is inappropriate,” she said in a statement.

Secretary Information PPP Parliamentarians Shazia Marri said the allegations made are serious, hence investigation is necessary. Marri said elections should be held within 90 days to avoid a major crisis as not holding elections within 90 days will be a violation of the Constitution.

“We have to follow the Constitution as it will bring political stability in the country,” she said. In a post on X, PMLN leader and former finance minister Ishaq Dar termed Alvi’s statement “unbelievable”, calling for his resignation. “Minimum morality warrants Alvi sb to resign, having failed to run his office effectively, efficiently and as per Rules of Business,” he added.

The signing controversy led to a debate on Article 75(1) which suggests that there are two ways in case the president doesn’t assent to the bill.

According to Article 75(1) of the Constitution, the president shall give his assent to the approved bill of parliament within 10 days of its receipt.

“In the case of a Bill other than a Money Bill, return the Bill to the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) with a message requesting that the Bill or any specified provision thereof, be reconsidered and that any amendment specified in the message be considered,” read Article 75(1)(b) of the Constitution.

The president objected to the said bills after a constitutional period of 10 days. Under Article 75, the bill must be approved by the joint session after being sent back by the president. After approval by the joint session, the bill is again sent to the president for approval.

“When the President has returned a Bill to the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), it shall be reconsidered by the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) in joint sitting and, if it is again passed, with or without amendment, by the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), by the votes of the majority of the members of both Houses present and voting, it shall be deemed for the purposes of the Constitution to have been passed by both Houses and shall be presented to the President, and the President shall give his assent within ten days, failing which such assent shall be deemed to have been given,” it states. Furthermore, if the president does not approve the bill within 10 days it then turns into a law.

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