The following mention appeared in The News on August 20, 2023, at the following link
President Arif Alvi’s shocking declaration that he did not sign the Official Secrets Act and the Army Act Amendment bills, senior journalists and political analysts have termed the entire scenario a “grave” matter that puts Pakistan’s reputation at risk.
“His [President Alvi’s] statement is suspicious until he provides solid evidence to support his claim; apologising does not suit the President in this matter,” senior journalist and political analyst Hamid Mir said during a special broadcast on Geo News.
President Alvi had reportedly signed the Official Secrets Act and the Army Act Amendment Bill approved by the National Assembly and the Senate, after which both bills became law.
Soon after the law passed, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan was booked in the cipher case. The party’s senior leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi was arrested from his residence in the evening, and today sources reported that Asad Umar had been apprehended in connection to the case.
In a shocking twist of events today, however, President Alvi denied the news of his approval of the Official Secrets Act and the Army Act amendment bill from his personal social media accounts.
Speaking on the matter, Mir said that this matter is not as simple as the president’s having given a statement.
“He will have to present concrete evidence in this matter,” he said.
Highlighting the sensitivity of the matter, he said that the president is making accusations against at least three people — not all of whom were civilians — who will be investigated for forgery.
Citing legal experts and lawyers President Alvi has been consulting, Mir said that the president is considering various legal options, including approaching the Supreme Court or filing an FIR.
Mir added that this was the first case of its sort.
“Three days have passed since the bill was passed. Sources close to him say he’s been concerned since then and was told that bills had been returned,” he said.
He added, however, that as of right now, we don’t know the point of view of the president’s staff.
“If there is evidence in his favour, he should bring it forward. In the course of events that he cannot prove his claim, he has no choice but to resign from his post,” said Mir.
He added that even his staff should come forward with evidence if they had any.
“This will remain disputed unless proved in writing or in any concrete form,” Mir regretted, adding that it was a matter of extreme disgrace for Pakistan in the international arena, since a former prime minister, former finance minister, and former information minister had been arrested under the law.
“Otherwise the entire country will be a joke in the world,” he cautioned.
According to Article 75 (1) of the Constitution, when a bill is presented to the president for assent, the head of the state has 10 days to approve the bill or return the bill with his observation to the parliament.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Army Act Amendment bill was sent to the president on August 2 and the lower house of parliament was dissolved on 9th of the same month, three days ahead of expiration of the deadline for the president to decide on the bill. While the Official Secrets Act bill was received by the president on August 8.
According to reports, the bills were not sent back to the parliament.
‘President might issue verbal orders’
Talking to Geo News, senior journalist and analyst Shehzad Iqbal said that the president can return the bill even after the dissolution of the assembly. “Three days back, he [president] returned 13 bills,” he added.
The president might return the bill after the dissolution of the assembly under a strategy so that the bills could not sail through the joint session of parliament, Iqbal added.
“The president could have returned the two bills with observation [even after the dissolution of the assembly] just like did with the 13 other bills. If he did not return the bills, then it shows that the president’s view [in this regard] is not correct completely. It shows, he might be confused [over the matter] or he issued verbal orders instead of proper written communication.”
Reacting to the prevailing situation involving the bills, the analyst said that if the president does not accord ascent or return the bill with observations but he holds the bills for more than the stipulated timeframe, in the case — according to legal experts — it should not be assumed that the head of the state has approved the bill.
However, it is not defined in the Constitution what would happen in this case.
“If the bills are returned and a joint sitting of parliament— after giving its node — sends the bill to the president and the president does not give his approval within 10 days, it will be deemed to have been given,” he added.
‘Deemed to have been returned’
Commenting on the situation that emerged after the president’s startling revelation about the bills and the confusion surrounding around the legal status of the Official Secrets and Army Act amendment bills, noted legal expert Salman Akram Raja said: “There is no deemed assent after 10 days at this stage. The president’s position that he directed return deserves the highest credibility.”
Taking to X, Raja said that Article 75 of the Constitution allows the president to return a bill for reconsideration generally.
“He may propose specific amendments but this is NOT essential,” he added.
PILDAT President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob commenting on the matter remarked that the president’s statement was ‘circumloquacious’.
The president should not only explain clearly but also prove it with dates.
He added that the President should openly reveal the matter to the public.
“If his sign has been forged or he has been disaobeyed it should be addressed legally. An FIR should be registered immediately, ” Mehboob said.
He expressed dismay over the events and said: “We’ve had some major incidents but this is unprecented. This will turn Pakistan into a laughing stock and sully the country’s reputation.”