BILLS SIGNING CONTROVERSY.
ISLAMABAD - Following the controversy over the signing of two bills by the president – the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023 - the President secretariat on Monday removed Secretary to the President Waqar Ahmed on the directives of President Dr Arif Alvi, and asked the government for the appointment of another senior officer for this post.
President Arif Alvi on Sunday last had hinted that his staff was allegedly involved in a situation in which he believed that on his directives the staff did not return these two important bills.
"In view of the definite statement of yesterday, the President's Secretariat has written a letter to the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister that the services of Waqar Ahmed, Secretary to the President, are no longer required and are surrendered to the Establishment Division, immediately," a short communiqué from the President said.
The letter written by the President Office said that it has also been desired that Humaira Ahmed, a BPS-22 officer of the Pakistan Administrative Service, may be posted as Secretary to the President.
In another development, President Arif Alvi contacted some senior PTI leaders and informed them that he was under pressure to resign and wanted their advice.
Credible sources told The Nation that PTI assured the President that it stands with him in the present crisis and he should not step down.
President Alvi also told the PTI leaders that he would like to visit PTI Chairman Imran Khan in the prison and seek his guidance on the latest situation including the option of resignation. President Alvi also consulted his legal team on the next course of action on the situation he was facing including an option to approach the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The controversy over these important bills emerged the other day when President Alvi on his personal social media on X (formerly known as Twitter) account claimed that he didn’t sign the Pakistan Army Act Amendment and Official Secret Act Amendment Bills.
However, this prompted the Federal Ministry of Law to issue immediate clarification which said, “The Ministry of Law & Justice has noted with grave concern the President’s recent tweet.” It said, “As per Article 75 of the Constitution, when a bill is sent for assent, the President has two options: either give assent, or refer the matter to the parliament with specific observations. Article 75 does not provide for any third option”.
It further said that in the instant matter, neither of the requirements was fulfilled.
The statement said, instead, the President purposely delayed the assent.
It further said that returning the bills without any observations or assent is not provided for in the Constitution.
The statement mentioned such a course of action is against the letter and spirit of the Constitution. “Had the President any observations, he could have returned the bills with his observations like he did in the recent and distant past,” the ministry said and asserted that he could have also issued a press release to that effect.
Soon after his removal, outgoing Secretary to the President Waqar Ahmed said that the president neither gave his assent to the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023 nor did he inform in writing of returning the bills back to parliament for reconsideration.
In a letter sent to the president, Waqar Ahmed stated that the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill was received on August 2 and sent to the president on August 3.
President Alvi, he added, had the 10-day time to advise on the bill till August 11.
“The Honourable President neither assented to the Bill nor gave a written decision for returning the Bill for reconsideration by the Parliament. The said file has not been returned to the Office of Secretary to date i.e. 21.08-2023,” the letter stated. Meanwhile, the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill was received on August 8 and was moved to the president’s office on August 9.
“It was clearly stated in the Note that the Prime Minister’s advice was received on 08-08-2023 and time of 10 days will be completed on 17.08.2023 (Thursday),” the letter also stated. However, the letter added that the president neither assented to the bill nor gave a written decision for returning the bill for reconsideration by parliament.
The secretary further said that he “neither delayed above mentioned two bills nor committed any irregularity or negligence”. He added that the files of the bills are still lying in the President’s Office as of today (August 21).
He said that the president’s decision for the surrender of his services is not based on justice.
“I request that the Honourable President may kindly order an inquiry by FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) or any other Agency to probe the facts and fix the responsibility for any lapse if committed by any officer or official,” he said.