Axe falls on top presidential official in Pakistan amid controversy over new laws

Axe falls on top presidential official in Pakistan amid controversy over new laws

President Arif Alvi says he did not sign 2 controversial bills granting blanket powers to army, intelligence agencies

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - Pakistan's President Arif Alvi on Monday recommended removal of his secretary amid controversy over two crucial bills, which the president said he did not sign.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Alvi startled the nation, claiming that he did not sign and asked his staff to return the bills – the Official Secrets Act Amendment Bill 2023 and the Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2023 – unsigned within the stipulated time to make them "ineffective."

But, he contended that his staff "undermined" his "will and command" by not returning the bills within stipulated time period of 10 days.

The caretaker Law Ministry, however, rejected Alvi's claim, saying that he could have either signed or returned the bills with "specific observations" within 10 days after the parliament's approval, which he did not.

"In view of the definite statement of yesterday (Sunday), 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," Alvi said on X.

- President's claim rebutted

Waqar Ahmed, for his part, contested the president's claim, requesting an inquiry into the issue.

According to local broadcaster Dunya News, Ahmed, in a letter to the president, claimed that Alvi neither signed the bills nor did he in writing direct him to return the bills within the constitutional period of 10 days.

The files of both bills, he claimed, are still with the president, and were not returned to the office of the president's secretary to date.

Both the bills, which give authorities more power to prosecute people for acts against the state and military, were approved by the lower and upper house of the parliament, and sent to the president for his approval. Alvi was said to have given his assent on Saturday.

According to the Pakistani Constitution, if the president does not sign a draft bill or return it back with objections within 10 days after approval from the two houses, it will become law.

Alvi is a member of former Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which opposes the coalition government that passed the two bills, and announced to challenge their enactment in the Supreme Court..

Two of its leaders, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Asad Umar, were arrested on Saturday and Sunday under Official Secrets Act for disclosing the contents of a diplomatic cipher.

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