'My will undermined by my staff,' Pakistan's president says of controversial laws

'My will undermined by my staff,' Pakistan's president says of controversial laws

Arif Alvi says his staff did not return 2 bills he refused to sign despite assurance

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistani President Arif Alvi said on Sunday that his staff messed up on two controversial bills passed by the outgoing Parliament earlier this month.

The outgoing lower house or the National Assembly passed the Official Secrets Amendment Bill 2023 and Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2023, aimed at expanding the role of the powerful army and intelligence agencies.

However, the bills also approved by the Senate, failed to get the president’s signature, which is a Constitutional requirement.

According to the Constitution, any bill approved by both houses of Parliament must be signed by the president before it becomes law. However, if the president refuses, the bill will be returned to Parliament, and if the lawmakers re-approve the legislation in question, it will become law automatically.

"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. I asked my staff to return the bills unsigned within stipulated time to make them ineffective," Alvi said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"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," he said.

"As Allah knows all, He will forgive IA. But I ask forgiveness from those who will be effected," he added.

The legislation, mainly an amendment to the country’s Official Secrets Act, proposed blanket powers for intelligence agencies, allowing them to raid any place and detain any citizen on mere suspicion.

However, intelligence agencies must still obtain warrants from a local magistrate.

Interestingly, senators from jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party also supported the legislation.
​According to one section, the army can carry out activities related to “national development” and the advancement of national or strategic interests.

The legislation, which also proposes up to five years in prison for anyone who discloses sensitive information about national security or the military, was passed less than two weeks before the coalition government of over a dozen parties led by Shehbaz Sharif's government ended after he dissolved the National Assembly, a few days before the competition of its five-year tenure.

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