President Alvi says did not sign Official Secrets Amendment Bill 2023, Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2023
- Says 'staff undermined my will and command', a remark that comes day after it was reported that President Alvi assented to the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Pakistan Army Act (Amendment) Bill, 2023
In a shocking and troubling revelation, President Dr Arif Alvi on Sunday said that he “did not sign the Official Secrets Amendment Bill 2023 and Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2023” because he disagreed with these laws. The president claimed that the staff undermined his “command and will.”
“As God is my witness, I did not sign Official Secrets Amendment Bill 2023 & Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2023 as I disagreed with these laws,” Alvi posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
The post, which raises more questions than it answers, was published on Sunday at 1:45pm.
He further explained that he had asked his staff to return the bills unsigned within the stipulated time to make them ineffective.
“I confirmed from them many times whether they have been returned & was assured that they were,” he claimed.
“However, I have found out today that my staff undermined my will and command,” he wrote, adding: “As Allah knows all, He will forgive IA. But I ask forgiveness from those who will be affected.”
President’s Tweet matter of ‘grave concern’
In response to President Alvi’s post, the Ministry of Law and Justice stated that it is an issue of “grave concern,“ adding that if he “had any observations, he could have returned the bills with his observations like he did in the recent and distant past.”
The president’s decision to tweet was questioned in the press release, which stated that “he could have also issued a press release to that effect.”
According to the statement, the “President should take responsibility for his own actions,” and “it is a matter of concern that the President has chosen to discredit his own officials.”
According to Article 75 of the Constitution, the President has two choices when a bill is given to him for assent: he can either assent or refer the item to the parliament with specific observations, the press release explained.
It stated that there is “no third choice provided for by Article 75.”
Neither requirement was satisfied in the current circumstance, it said.
Instead, the statement alleged that the President had purposely delayed the assent.
On Saturday, it was reported that the president has signed into law the Official Secrets Amendment Bill and the Army Act Amendment Bill.
Prior to the end of its term, the previous National Assembly had approved the Official Secrets Act and Army Act Amendment bills.
The bills have been criticised by lawmakers and referred to as draconian, with several provisions not discussed by relevant committees.
The bill “Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2023” says that those who disclose information against the interests of the country or the army will be dealt with under the Official Secrets Act and the Army Act.
It proposes up to five years in jail for anyone who discloses sensitive information regarding the security of the country or the army.
The bill proposes introducing Section 26-B, which forbids any person subject to the Army Act from engaging in any kind of political activity for two years from the date of their “retirement, release, resignation, discharge, removal or dismissal from the service”.
The bill also proposes introducing Sections 55-A (conflict of interest), 55-B (electronic crimes), and 55-C (defamation).
Section 55-B says that any person who commits an offence under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca), 2016 “with the malafide intention to undermine, ridicule, or scandalize the armed forces of Pakistan,” shall be punished in the manner prescribed in the Peca law.
As per Section 55-C, a person subject to the Army Act, who “ridicules, scandalises, brings into hatred or otherwise attempts to lower the armed forces of Pakistan or any part thereof in the estimation of others shall […] be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years or fine or with both.”
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) reacted to the development by expressing extreme concern over President Alvi’s tweet.
“The President’s tweet is unusual, alarming, and unimaginable in every way,” the PTI wrote on its official X (formerly Twitter) handle.
A serious wave of anxiety has spread throughout the nation following the president’s tweet, PTI said.
“It is important to examine the contents of the President’s tweet from every angle and every aspect. After a detailed review of the President’s tweet, PTI will present its response to the nation.”
The denial by President Alvi, who is close to PTI chairman Imran Khan currently under arrest, prompted calls for his resignation by the opposition.
Former finance minister Ishaq Dar said the president’s remarks were “unbelievable” and urged him to resign on account of “having failed to run his office effectively”.
Irfan Siddiqui, a PML-N senator, called on the president to resign.
“President Alvi speak openly. If there was disagreement with the bills, why didn’t he register his objections? What was the purpose of sending back the bill without a yes or no? Why did he remain silent for two days despite the news [of the bills being signed] coming in the media?
“Now that he has spoken, the matter became more confusing. If his staff is not in his control, then [he should] resign and go home.”