It seems as though Pakistan steps into one constitutional crisis after the next, with the latest development being President Arif Alvi’s claim that he did not sign the Army Act Amendment nor the Secret Act Amendment Bills that were passed in the last few days. He further passed blame onto staff members who he claims went against his directives. In all of this, questions have been pointed towards the sheer disregard shown towards the procedure for passing bills, as well as the lack of transparency when it comes to the matter. It is vital that all relevant actors provide some clarity on the matter for the sake of protecting the sanctity of the constitution.
Immediately after President Alvi renounced his signatures on both bills, the Federal Ministry of Law issued a statement which detailed the President’s responsibilities in regards to passing bills, and alluded to malpractice on part of the President. The constitution presents two options for the President when he is confronted with a bill; accept it and give his signature or return the bill with observations that the parliamentary committee will then resolve. There is no apparent provision for a third option of sending back the bill without a certain answer, or retaining it indefinitely. In fact, in the last scenario, the bill automatically becomes a law if kept for more than 10 days. Seeing that this is a comprehensive yet clear procedure that was followed for the last five years in which President Alvi was in office, most have questioned what suddenly allowed for such developments to occur.
In fact, if the matter was urgent enough, the Ministry has rightfully pointed out that the very same statement should have been issued by the President earlier. As it stands right now, we are dangerously close to making a joke out of our constitution and its mandated procedures–something we have earned a reputation for at this point in time. It is imperative that all relevant parties sit together and hold discussion to clear out any confusions or miscommunication. At the same time, a resolution is required immediately because otherwise, we might have another constitutional crisis to deal with.