In a joint press conference called over President Arif Alvi’s claims of being “undermined” by his staff over the amended Official Secrets and Army acts, interim Law Minister Ahmed Irfan Aslam and Information Minister Murtaza Solangi on Sunday maintained Article 75 only granted the president two options when presented bills approved by Parliament.
“Under Article 75 of the Constitution, the president only has two options: either to sign a bill or reject it. In case of rejection, he has to give reasons for returning the bills unsigned,” said the law minister, adding if the president fails to avail either option, a bill is “deemed” to become law after the lapse of 10 days. Noting that the government had not received either of the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023 or Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023 from the presidency, he claimed this meant both had now become law.
The interim law minister noted that the Army act had been received by the president on Aug. 2, while the amended official secrets act had been received on Aug. 8. The 10-day deadline, he said had expired on both last week. Emphasizing that the president had decided to keep both bills pending rather than assenting or rejecting them, Aslam maintained that they had “automatically” become law after 10 days. Recalling that Alvi had availed one of the two options in the past, he said there was no precedent for blocking any of bills merely by leaving them unsigned.
“How will the president’s objection be known if the bills are not received from the Aiwan-e-Sadr,” he asked, adding it would be better if the president’s personal staff—who Alvi has accused of “undermining” him—explained their position on the matter. “Returning the bills without any observations or assent is not provided for in the Constitution. Such a course of action is against the letter and spirit of the Constitution,” he maintained.
The interim information minister, meanwhile, said the caretakers had no intention of seeking any action against the president over his claims. “The sanctity and respect of the President’s Office does not allow us to make any such move. No action can be taken against him till he is in his office,” he said, clarifying that the press conference’s sole motive was to clear ambiguities created by the president’s tweet.
On Sunday afternoon, in a tweet, President Alvi denied reports he had signed the amended bills, alleging his staff had “undermined” his orders to return them unsigned. “I asked my staff to return the bills unsigned within the stipulated time to make them ineffective. I confirmed from them many times that whether they have been returned and was assured that they were,” he wrote. “As God is my witness, I did not sign Official Secrets Amendment Bill 2023 and Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2023 as I disagreed with these laws,” he said, adding he sought “forgiveness” from those who would be affected.
Following Alvi’s tweet, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) announced it would challenge the laws in the Supreme Court and seek an inquiry led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial to find out the truth and hold those responsible accountable.
In a statement, the former ruling party said the president’s claims required “serious” steps, claiming they had identified deep-rooted issues within the state and the government. “The non-implementation of the president’s orders is unconstitutional and unacceptable,” it said, claiming the entire nation and the party were standing with the president for the supremacy of the Constitution and law.