Home Latest News Dismissed Secretary Claims President Alvi Neither Assented, Nor Rejected Controversial Bills

Dismissed Secretary Claims President Alvi Neither Assented, Nor Rejected Controversial Bills

In letter addressed to president, Waqar Ahmed seeks restoration of his service, maintaining he neither delayed the bills, nor committed any negligence

by Staff Report

File photo of President Alvi, courtesy President’s Office

A few hours after his removal as secretary to the president on Monday, a letter addressed to Arif Alvi by official Waqar Ahmed was leaked to media, indicating the president had neither assented to, nor formally rejected, the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

On Sunday, President Alvi posted a statement on X, formerly Twitter, alleging his staff had “undermined” his “will and command” by not returning the controversial legislations to Parliament unsigned, which he said he had “objected” to. The startling disclosure has raised questions about the legality of the two bills, which were formally notified by the interim government after President Alvi’s assent was deemed to have been given after the expiry of 10 days.

Amidst mounting public concern over Alvi’s allegation, the President’s Office on Monday surrendered Ahmed’s services to the Establishment Division, asking the government to replace him with another BPS-22 officer. The public reaction shifted to considering Ahmed “guilty” of undermining Alvi, prompting the official to issue a clarification in a letter addressed to the president.

In his letter, Ahmed recalled that the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill was received on Aug. 2 and sent to the president on Aug. 3, while the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill was received on Aug. 8 and forwarded to the president on Aug. 9. This meant Alvi had until Aug. 11 to decide the fate of the former and until Aug. 17 for the latter.

“The honorable 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,” read the letter regarding the amended Army act. Similarly, said Ahmed, the president had been informed that he had until Aug. 17 to decide on the amended Secrets act, adding Alvi had neither assented to the bill nor given a written decision for returning the bill for reconsideration by Parliament.

Stressing that he had “neither delayed abovementioned two bills nor committed any irregularity or negligence,” Ahmed maintained that he believed the files of the bills were still lying in the President’s Office as of today (Aug. 21). As a consequence, he wrote, the president’s decision to surrender his services was not based on justice. “I request that the honorable 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, adding he was willing to present himself in court if needed to prove his innocence. “It is requested that U.O. dated 21-08-2023 regarding surrendering of my services to the Establishment Division may kindly be withdrawn,” he wrote.

After Ahmed’s letter went public, Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan confirmed to Geo News that the president had returned both the Army and Secrets bills on Sunday night. “Both bills were received by Prime Minister’s House yesterday,” he said.

The issue at hand pertains to Article 75 of the Constitution, which presents the president with two options when he receives a bill: either assent to it or send it back with observations to Parliament for reconsideration. The law ministry has noted the president availed neither option, after which his assent was “deemed” to have been given. Legal experts, however, differ on this, noting in the first stage of presidential approval, there is no ground for “deemed” assent. It is only after a bill is returned to the president by Parliament and he refuses to sign it within 10 days that he is deemed to have granted assent, they have added.

Official inquiry

Amidst the ongoing controversy, former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif—currently in London—has called for an official inquiry into the conduct of President Alvi. Speaking with media, he said the facts of whether Alvi lied or the staff failed to perform its duties needed to be determined through a “transparent” probe.

He further noted that prime ministers and other office-bearers are required by law to sign summaries and bills, not communicate their orders verbally. He also noted that Alvi should have explicitly rejected the bills, per past practice, if he truly objected to them.

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