PM slams president for 'anti-govt, one sided' letter on implementation of SC orders regarding provincial polls
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif sharply reacted to President Dr Arif Alvi’s letter on Sunday, saying it looked like a press release of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and it did not conform to his [president’s] constitutional status.
The president wrote to PM Shehbaz, urging him to ensure the implementation of Supreme Court’s orders in relation to the general election in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
However, the prime minister, in his letter, replied that the president’s letter was one-sided and held anti-government views. He said the letter was ‘blatantly partisan in nature’ and supported Imran Khan-led party’s ‘one-sided and anti-government’ views.
“You openly express anti-government views and your letter was not reflective of the president’s constitutional role and this is what you’re constantly doing,” wrote the premier.
Criticising the president, Shehbaz said the head of state followed former prime minister Imran Khan’s unconstitutional instructions by dissolving the National Assembly — which was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on April 7. He added that President Alvi also failed to fulfill the constitutional duty to administer the oath to him as the prime minister under Article 91, Clause 5.
“Despite the foregoing and several other instances, where you actively worked towards undermining a constitutionally elected government, I have made all-out efforts to maintain a good working relationship with you. However, the contents of your letter, its tone and language have compelled me to respond to it,” the premier stated.
“Regrettably and ostensibly due to your party allegiance, you have failed to note the sheer violation of laws, contumacious disregard of court orders, attacking the law enforcement agencies, damaging public property, attempts to create chaos, civil and political unrest and in short, to bring the country to the brink of economic default and civil war, by the PTI,” said PM Shehbaz.
He also criticised the president for not commenting on deposed prime minister Imran Khan’s failure to appear in courts. The premier stressed that the incumbent government had ensured that there is “complete freedom of speech and expression, as enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution”.
While referring to attacks on media persons and journalists, Shehbaz also criticised the former PTI government for keeping the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) dysfunctional for most of its tenure. “There are several reports of international human rights organisations, which reflect poorly on the track record of the previous government on severe violations of human rights and the fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan,” the premier said.
He also drew the president’s attention towards the political victimisation of opposition lawmakers during the PTI rule, notably the narcotics case, entailing the death penalty against Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah — who was then an MNA — and NAB cases against Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) leader Maryam Nawaz.
“Mr President, the Constitution does not vest any powers in or assign any functions to the President whereby the President can seek an explanation from the government or the prime minister. The only reason I am responding to your letter is because I want to bring your partisan attitude and actions on record and to set the record of our government straight,” he added.
In his letter, the prime minister further criticized the president, saying that he gave the dates for elections at the PTI’s behest. He added that the president’s decision to give an election date for the KP Assembly was set aside by the apex court. “You have not raised any concerns on the mala fide dissolution of the provincial assemblies of the two provinces, that too at the behest of and to satisfy the ego of the chairman, PTI,” he continued.
Responding to the reference made in the president’s letter of Article 46 of the Constitution and Rule 15(5) of the Rules of Business, 1973 on holding of meaningful consultations between the president and prime minister, he said, the objection was out of place. Under clause (1) of Article 48, the president, in the exercise of his functions, must act on and in accordance with the advice of the cabinet or the prime minister, he added.
The prime minister noted: “In very limited instances, the President acts in his discretion under the Constitution. Article 46 and Rule 15 (5) (b) supra are what they ordain. That is to keep the president informed. Nothing more and nothing less.
“These provisions, or for that matter, nothing else in the Constitution requires the prime minister to consult the president on the exercise of executive authority by the federal government.”
Shehbaz observed that the assemblies were dissolved to blackmail the governments at the Centre and provincial governments in a bid to force them to dissolve the National Assembly and the other two provincial assemblies. “You have not taken note of the effect of conducting elections to these two provinces prior to the general election to the National Assembly inasmuch as organising and conducting free and fair elections under Clause (3) of Article 218 may not be possible with elected provincial governments in Punjab and KP,” he wrote, adding that this constitutional distortion was not looked into by the president.
The prime minister also highlighted that it was the electoral body’s decision to assess whether the circumstances allow polls to be held. PM Shehbaz concluded his letter by saying that he is “fully aware” of his duties and the duties of the government.
“Our government is fully committed to preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution and ensuring that the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens of Pakistan are not violated,” he continued. He said that the government is also determined to ensure that no one is allowed to violate the law, create unrest and attempt to cause irreparable harm to the state of Pakistan. “I want to further assure you that our government will thwart any efforts to undermine the constitutionally elected government,” he added.
Earlier on Saturday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said the PTI Chairman Imran Khan was “not merely a political rival” of the PMLN but an “enemy” and that the hostilities between the two political parties had reached a point where only one of the two could survive.
In an interview with a private news channel, he said: “In my opinion, Imran Khan does not believe in democracy and democratic traditions. He does not believe in having a peaceful political environment in this country. He has turned politics into enmity.
“He considers us his enemies while we [previously] used to think of him as our political rival, but with time it has come to a point where [we also think] that he is our enemy.
“Democratic traditions, timely elections, and rights and wrongs are part of democracy and politics, but not during an enmity,” the interior minister added. “He (Imran) says that we want to murder him so if [he says] we want to murder him, then he also wants to murder us. Either he or us will get murdered. He has now taken the country’s politics to a point where only one of the two can survive.”
Sanaullah said that if his party’s entire existence was in jeopardy, then they would go to any extent, explaining that in those circumstances, it would become irrelevant to think “what can or cannot be done, if something is democratic or not, if something is principled or not.”
When the interviewer pointed out that such remarks could result in anarchy, Sanaullah said: “Anarchy already prevails. What else is there.”
When asked if there was a way out and whether Imran’s arrest could ease the hostilities, the interior minister said the matter had escalated to a point of no return. “Either their politics will end or ours will.”
However, later on Sunday, the interior minister said that the PMLN’s plan was to eradicate Imrani Fitna with the power of the vote. He told a private news channel PTI Chairman Imran Niazi was responsible for the current political instability and chaos that had spread in the country, while the responsibility for the outcome would lay squarely on him alone. “From 2014 till today, Imran was on the same agenda that the country would suffer chaos,” he added.
The interior minister said that Imran Khan took all unconstitutional measures to end the political existence of PMLN during his regime because according to him, the biggest problem of Pakistan was the opposition and every person who disagreed with him.
Keeping in view the seriousness of the country’s internal affairs, he said Imran was invited to the Charter of Economy but he vilified the PMLN in return. “The PTI chief refuses to accept differences of opinion, and he has turned politics into enmity,” he added.
Regarding the transparency in elections, if held in phases, he said: “No one would believe in the results of elections and this would further create another political crisis.”