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ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi on Tuesday said that the ‘neutrals’ of the country should always remain neutral and backed the idea of appointing the next army chief before the time fixed (November) considering the prevailing political crisis in the country.

The president said so while talking and responding to the questions of journalists at the President House, “If the appointment of army chief takes place through the laid down procedure, containing the formal approval of relevant institutions and offices then he would have no objection to it.” He was asked “is it not a good option to appoint the chief before the set time” to which he said, “not a bad idea”. He said that this “elephant in the room is not new; it has been there for the last 50 years”.

Answering another question about grand dialogue between the political parties to end crisis, he said that as President he does not have the constitutional role to ask stakeholders to hold talks.

“I do not have the constitutional authority to ask parties to have a dialogue,” he said.

“It is only possible if all the stakeholders agree to it and then the President House can play a role,” he said, as calls grow in the country for negotiations amid reports that the establishment is mulling a “soft intervention”.

Answering a question about the political crisis in the country, the president said that in his personal opinion a clear mandate is essential.

The president said he is against the presidential power to dissolve assemblies under Article 58 2(b) - the provision which has not been removed from the constitution through the 18th Amendment. He said, “A parliamentary system of governance is the best.”

Answering a question about a presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa, which was quashed by the Supreme Court, Alvi said the reference was sent to him and he forwarded it.

It is pertinent to note that PTI Chairman Imran Khan had admitted that it was a mistake to file the case against the Supreme Court judge.

While speaking about his relationship with the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, he said it is wrong to say that his ties with the prime minister are not good. He said since the new government came into power it sent me 74 summaries and “I returned 69 of them with my assent the same day”.

“Only summaries related to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordinance, Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) machines, and governor Punjab were withheld and there was no pressure on me to do so.”

Answering a question, the president said, “I didn’t have any talk with Imran Khan for a long time, nor do I receive any instructions from him.”

However, President Alvi said that the last time he talked with his party chairman was during the Punjab governor issue. “I communicate with Imran Khan on WhatsApp.”

Commenting on a Supreme Court judge’s note in the case of former National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri’s ruling during the chief minister of Punjab election, Alvi said he did not violate the constitution or commit treason. He said that the United States does not want to end relations with Pakistan. He appreciated Minister for Foreign Affairs Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s efforts to strengthen Pak-US relations.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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