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Wednesday April 24, 2024

President or his secretary: Who is being economical with the truth?

By Ansar Abbasi
August 22, 2023

ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi is in hot waters after his secretary belied his stance on newly amended Army Act and Official Secrets Act and challenged that the latter has all the evidence to prove his innocence, which means proving the head of the state wrong.

A confidential letter written by Waqar Ahmad, the Secretary to the President on Monday after Dr Alvi sought Ahmad’s removal from Presidency for not conveying to the government his disapproval of the two bills (now became acts), created an extremely embarrassing situation for the President.

While Alvi stated that he had asked the secretary to return the bills to the government, Waqar not only rebutted the President’s statement but insisted that the bills are still lying in the office of the President. He said the President neither assented the bill nor passed any direction to return the bills for Parliament’s reconsideration.

The secretary said that he is ready to face any inquiry by any agency or even appear before the apex court to prove himself right through documentary evidence.

One of the two is lying. If it’s the President, his continuation may not be possible as public pressure will develop seeking his resignation. If it’s the secretary Waqar, he may have to face the disciplinary proceedings leading to his removal from service.

On Sunday, the President tweeted, “As God is my witness, I did not sign the Official Secrets Amendment Bill 2023 & Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2023 as I disagreed with these laws. I asked my staff to return the bills unsigned with stipulated time to make them ineffective. I confirmed from them many times that whether they have been returned & was assured that they were. However, I have found out today that my staff undermined my will and command. As Allah knows all, He will forgive IA. But I ask forgiveness from those who will be affected.”

The above statement of the President created a serious constitutional and political controversy. A day later, on Monday the Presidency tweeted, “In view of the definite statement of yesterday, President’s Secretariat has written a letter to Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister that services of Waqar Ahmed, Secretary to President, are no more required and are surrendered to the Establishment Division Immediately.”

Later, in the evening, Waqar Ahmed’s confidential letter written to the President surfaced in which the secretary not only gave details of the date and time of the bills’ arrival in the Presidency and their presentation to the President. He rebutted Alvi’s stance by insisting that the bills were neither assented by the President nor any direction was given in writing to return them to Parliament for reconsideration.

More importantly, the secretary said that the said files are still lying in the office of the President. He requested the President to order an inquiry by any agency to probe the facts of the case and fix the responsibility. He offered that even if the Supreme Court or any other court calls him for clarification, he would present a record to prove his innocence.

Previously in every case where the bill was returned by Dr Alvi, it was done in writing by the President himself under his own signature. There is no explanation available why the President in the case of bills relating to the Army Act and Official Secrets Act did not return them with his signature.