UPDATE - 'God is my witness': Pakistan's president denies signing key laws
'I did not sign Official Secrets Amendment Bill, 2023 and Pakistan Army Amendment Bill, 2023 as I disagreed with these laws,' says Alvi
UPDATES WITH MORE DETAILS, CHANGES DECK, HEADLINE, EDITS THROUGHOUT
By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistani President Arif Alvi on Sunday denied having signed two crucial bills, and accused his staff to have "undermined my will and command."
The president said he 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.”
"I confirmed from them many times that whether they have been returned & was assured that they were," he said on X, formerly Twitter.
"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."
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, and sent to the president for his approval. Alvi was said to have given his assent on Saturday.
According to the 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.
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.
The Law Ministry, meanwhile, termed the president's claim "against the spirit of the Constitution." It said in a statement that the president has no third option, but to either sign a bill or return to the parliament with specific observations.
The PTI termed the development "concerning" and "unimaginable" and said it will take the matter to the Supreme Court.
Senator Irfan Siddiqi from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which headed the previous government, said the president should step down if his staff did not listen to him.
Pakistan People's Party's Faisal Karim Kundi also demanded the president's resignation.
Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan from the country's mainstream religiopolitical party, the Jamat-e-Islami, one of a handful of lawmakers who opposed the bills, said Alvi's statement had opened a new "pandora box."
Abid Zuberi, president Supreme Court Bar Association, also urged the president to move to the apex court on the issue.
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