President Arif Alvi on Monday surrendered the services of the secretary to the president to the Establishment Division, a day after he had alleged in a posting on Twitter that his staff had “undermined” his “will and command” regarding the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023.
“In view of the definite statement of yesterday, President’s Secretariat has written a letter to Principal Secretary to Prime Minister that the services of Mr. Waqar Ahmed, Secretary to President, are no more required and are surrendered to the Establishment Division, immediately,” read a statement issued by the Presidency. “It has also been desired that Ms. Humaira Ahmed, a BPS-22 officer of the Pakistan Administrative Service, may be posted as Secretary to the President,” it added.
On Sunday afternoon, in a posting on Twitter from his personal account, Alvi had alleged he did not sign the controversial bills and they had been made law without his assent. “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 wrote, adding he had asked his staff to return the bills unsigned within the stipulated timeframe to make them “ineffective.”
He added: “I confirmed from them many times that whether they have been returned and was assured that they were. However, I have found out today that my staff undermined my will and command. As Allah knows all, He will forgive Insha’Allah. But I ask forgiveness from those who will be affected.”
The president’s disclosure had attracted severe criticism, with leaders and supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), especially, decrying it as an attack on the Constitution and vowing to challenge the laws in court to get their implementation suspended or nullified outright. The former ruling party’s critics, meanwhile, had called for Alvi’s resignation, stating he should not remain in his office because of his inability to “control” his staff.
In a subsequent press conference, the Law Ministry had acknowledged that the bills had not been signed by Alvi, but had maintained they were “deemed” to have been granted assent, because the president did not return any objections with them, as per procedure. The interim law minister had further maintained that Article 75 only granted the president with two options: either returning a bill with objections or granting his assent. As Alvi did not avail either of the two options, he said, the legislations had been deemed to have been granted assent. It remains unclear whether the Supreme Court would take up the matter, as a majority of legal experts agree the president’s tweet has raised significant questions over the legality of the legislations, requiring a stay on their implementation until a constitutional interpretation has been reached.