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PR Short Notes


Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 650, 23 August 2023

Continuing Controversy over President’s Assent



Waqar requested the withdrawal of his removal and refuted the allegation purported against him.

Femy Francis

Petitioned filed against suspensions of controversial bills 
On 22 August, Advocate Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta filed a petition to suspend both controversial legislations, the Official Secrets Act and the Army Act amendments. He urged the apex court to review the two bills under Article 186 of Advisory Jurisdiction, where at any time, the president can infer Supreme Courts opinions on law’s that stand for public importance. The petitioner mentioned President Arif Alvi’s recent “deemed assent” controversy and expressed that the discrepancies would have an effect on both the accused and the general public. He called the legislations that were passed as “dubious in nature” and that it violated Article 4 on the rights of the individual to be dealt in accordance with law and Article 5, which iterates obedience towards the constitution. 
 
Letter by Principal Secretary Waqar Ahmed
On 21 August, after the startling revelation, President’s Secretariat informed the Principal Secretary, Waqar Ahmed, that his services would not be required by the President. Waqar requested the withdrawal of his removal and refuted the allegation purported against him. President Arif Alvi claimed that he directed his staff to return the bill as he did not agree with the legislations and stated that his staff undermined his authority and did not follow suit. Waqar refuted these allegations levied against him in a letter stating that the two controversial bill Army Act and Official Secrets Act reached the president’s office on 2 August and 8 August respectively and the deadline were specifically mentioned as 11 August and 17 August. Waqar asserted that neither the President assented nor gave any written order to return the bill and that both bills remained within the President’s office till 21 August. Refuting the allegations, he iterated that he neither made a mistake nor delayed the proceedings and that his removal was unjustified, demanding to be reinstated to Establishments Division. 
 
Adding to the controversy, a conversation also surfaced between President Arif Alvi and Secretary Waqar Ahmed, where the former agreed that Waqar had no involvement in the bill approval process and that he was facing pressure from PTI party. Amid the altercation Presidential Secretariat issued notice for the appointment for new Principal Secretary of a grade 22 DMG officer Humaria Ahmad, Humaria has refused to take on the offer expressing her concerns against being included in the ongoing controversy. 
 
Opinions and Response to the controversy
On 22 August, Awami National Party (ANP) vice president Ameer Haider Khan Hoti accused President Arif Alvi of playing a “double game” and that he did not want to offend the state institutions and the PTI party owing to his loyalties. He accused the president for: “intentionally created this controversy.” The discrepancies in the facts have created a vacuum of doubt where an editorial in Dawn, ‘Persisting doubts’ stated whatever may be Alvi’s position on the bills, he did not ascribe a position as to why he did not assent to bills in writing and that his half baked apology and laid back approach and firing of his staff without assigning a reason is perplexing. 
 
Another editorial in Dawn, ‘Presidential indiscretion’ by Zahid Hussain analyzed the controversy. Where he made note that while the constitutional proceeding was at question with the validity of the claims made by the president. What needs to be looked into is the fact that the two bills were pushed through the parliament for approval, just days before the dissolution of the previous PDM government. The urgency with which the bill was passed shows the ruling coalition’s alliance towards providing more powers to the security and military agencies over civilian rights. Where the draconian laws the coalitions pushed for to reprimand its opponents will haunt the democratic process of the country. The editorial stress on the repercussions and the alleged targeting of the opposition party PTI, where the accused members will face court under both of these controversial amended acts. 
 
References 
(Sohail Khan, “SC moved for suspending bills not signed by President Arif Alvi,” The News International, 23 August 2023
Bills controversy: Alvi admitted 'party pressure',” The Express Tribune, 23 August 2023
Alvi removes presidential secretary over bills controversy,” The Express Tribune, 21 August 2023
ANP accuses Alvi of playing double game,” The News International, 23 August 2023
Syed Irfan Raza, “Bureaucrats refuse posting to Presidency after bills saga,” Dawn, 23 August 2023)

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