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Saturday April 13, 2024

'Fully aware of my constitutional duties', PM Shehbaz tells President Alvi

PM slams president for "anti-govt, one sided" letter on implementation of SC orders regarding provincial polls

By Web Desk
March 26, 2023
Undated photos of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (left) addressing the National Assembly and President Arif Alvi pictured in President House. — AFP/ APP
Undated photos of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (left) addressing the National Assembly and President Arif Alvi pictured in President House. — AFP/ APP

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday slammed President Arif Alvi for expressing "anti-government and one-sided" views in a letter for the implementation of Supreme Court's orders regarding the elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

On March 24, President Dr Arif Alvi had penned a letter to the premier, urging him to ensure the implementation of the apex court's orders in relation to the provincial elections.

However PM Shehbaz Sharif — in a five-page response to the missive comprising seven points — said that Alvi's letter appeared to be a "press release" of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which reflected biased and anti-government views. 

"I am constrained to express, at the outset, my disappointment at the blatantly partisan nature of your letter, which in parts reads like a Press Release of the Opposition political party i.e. the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (whose one-sided, anti-government views you continue to openly espouse, notwithstanding your constitutional oath/office of President," PM Shehbaz stated in the letter. 

He said that it was a matter of record that the president had previously acted in a similar "partisan manner" several times in violation of his oath.

The PM cited the president's order of the dissolution of the National Assembly on April 3, 2022, "on illegal" directives of the then-prime minister Imran Khan, Dr Alvi’s failure to administer oath to him after his election as PM, and failure to discharge your constitutional duty in terms of clause (5) of Article 91.

"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 has 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 poetical 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, PM Shehbaz also criticised the former PTI-government for keeping the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) dysfunctional for the most part 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 death penalty, against Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah — who was then an MNA — and NAB cases against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Maryam Nawaz.

"Mr President, the Constitution does not vest any powers in or assigns any functions to the President whereby the President can seek 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 lambasted 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 malafide 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.

The premier 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 elections 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 is the electoral body's decision to assess whether the circumstances are favourable for the polls.

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 preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and ensure 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.

President's letter

In his letter, the president emphasised that all concerned executive authorities of the federal and provincial governments should be directed to refrain from abuse of human rights and also to assist the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold general elections in the two provinces, within the timeframe, in compliance with the apex court’s order, to avoid further complications including contempt of court.

The move came after the ECP had postponed the upcoming elections in Punjab — initially scheduled to be held on April 30 — citing security reasons as the major cause behind the change in plans.

The president said that the prime minister, being head of the government, was responsible for safeguarding human rights as well as the fundamental rights of every citizen of Pakistan as enshrined in the Constitution.