The President of Pakistan Arif Alvi has stirred up a hornet’s nest in Pakistan by this tweet :
As God is my witness, I did not sign 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 within stipulated time to make them ineffective. I confirmed from them many times that…
— Dr. Arif Alvi (@ArifAlvi) August 20, 2023
In his connection we may consider Article 75 of the Constitution of Pakistan Article 75: President’s assent to Bills:
1. When a Bill is presented to the President for assent, the President shall, within ten days,-
a. assent to the Bill; or
b. in the case of a Bill other than a Money Bill, return the Bill to the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) with a message requesting that the Bill or any specified provision thereof, be reconsidered and that any amendment specified in the message be considered.
2. When the President has returned a Bill to the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), it shall be reconsidered by the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) in joint sitting and, if it is again passed, with or without amendment, by the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), by the votes of the majority of the members of both Houses present and voting, it shall be deemed for the purposes of the Constitution to have been passed by both Houses and shall be presented to the President, and the President shall give his assent within ten days, failing which such assent shall be deemed to have been given. ; and
3. When the President has assented or is deemed to have assented to a Bill, it shall become law and be called an Act of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).
Thus, when a Bill passed by both Houses of the Pakistan Parliament ( Majls-e-Shoora ) is submitted to the President he may assent to it or return it within 10 days to Parliament for reconsideration.
President Alvi says in his tweet that he had asked his staff to return the Bill to Parliament within the stipulated time ( i.e. 10 days ), and confirmed with them many times whether the 2 bills had been returned, and his staff assured him that they had.
I regret that President Alvi has been evasive and economical with the truth, and has a lot of explaining to do, particularly on these issues :
1. When the President returns a Bill to Parliament surely he will do that in writing by a letter addressed to Parliament signed by him.
President Alvi in his tweet does not say that he ever wrote such a letter addressed to Parliament signed by him. All he says in his tweet is that he had asked his staff to return the two bills to Parliament within the stipulated period. This is sheer obfuscation and sophistry. He should clarify whether he had written and signed a letter addressed to Parliament returning the two bills, and asked his staff to convey this letter to Parliament. Merely telling his staff orally to return the Bills is not enough.
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If the President says that he had indeed written such a letter to Parliament, he should produce a copy of it. The fact that he has not yet done so indicates that probably no such letter was ever written.
2. President Alvi says in his tweet that ” I asked my staff to return the bills unsigned within the stipulated time to make them ineffective. I confirmed from them many times that whether they have been returned & was assured that they were ”.
Here again President Alvi obfuscates, equivocates, and dissembles. He should have disclosed the name of his staff member whom he told to return the Bill to Parliament. After all, the President would be having a huge staff. Using the general expression ” my staff ” without disclosing any name or names is sheer dissimulation and mendacity.
3. If indeed President Alvi’s staff deceived him, what action has he taken against the culprits ? Has he suspended them ? If his forged signatures were taken ( as some people allege ), has he directed an FIR to be lodged against the delinquents ? These are very serious offences, but President Alvi has chosen not to clarify.
Markandey Katju is an Indian jurist and former Supreme Court judge of India who served as chairman for the Press Council of India. He has also worked as Standing Counsel for the Income Tax Department.