South Asia and Beyond

Staff Ditched Me: Pak President On ‘Double Bill’ Whammy

 Staff Ditched Me: Pak President On ‘Double Bill’ Whammy

NEW DELHI: “President Arif Alvi has sacked his secretary Waqar Ahmed immediately,” tweeted Pakistani journalist Azaz Syed adding, “Secretary to President removed. Surrendered to Establishment Division.”

Clearly, the president saw the need to distance himself from his earlier complicity (or stupidity) in not ensuring two bills, giving the army vast new powers, were returned to parliament. With the bills now law, Alvi did what any politician in this part of the world does to duck a controversy and his role in it: he dumps an official, in this case the unfortunate Waqar Ahmed.

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In a letter to the President, Ahmed questioned the decision to surrender his services, saying it was ‘not based on justice’. “I want to set the record straight that I am not responsible for any irregularities regarding the bills,” he asserted, claiming that documents pertaining to the bills still lay in the President’s office. I am ready to testify before the Supreme Court or any court and establish my innocence, said Ahmed.

Political clamour for a thorough investigation into the incident is growing, with former PM Shehbaz Sharif demanding a transparent probe into the President’s conduct.

The grapevine has it that Alvi, whose term ends on September 9, is hoping for an extension, the hope stemming from the fact that no electoral college exists to elect a new president (the national assembly and four provincial assemblies having been dissolved). The constitution also says the president continues in office until a new one is elected.

Former R&AW special secretary Tilak Devasher tweeted: “For the sake of the sanctity of his office does Pres Alvi have any option other than resigning? But then, this is Pakistan we are talking about & Arif Alvi senses that he can continue much beyond his scheduled term.”

Hints that the interim government looks kindly on him came from the Law Minister Irfan Aslam, who told reporters: “The president had only two choices: approve the bills or send them back with objections. No third option exists, and if the bills are not returned, they become law automatically after 10 days.”

Both bills had led to bitter debates in Parliament earlier this month, with the opposition and a few members of the former ruling coalition accusing the government of passing them in haste. The Opposition had reason:

A new offence created under the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill makes it punishable to disclose the identities of members of intelligence agencies, informants or sources. Violations can attract up to three years in jail and a fine of 10 million rupees. The Federal Investigation Agency and intelligence agencies are empowered to probe possible suspects

Against the backdrop of the May 9 attacks on military facilities, the status of military installations as prohibited areas in times of war has been expanded to peacetime as well.

The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill prescribes a jail term of up to five years for anyone who discloses sensitive information relating to national security. It also bars ex-servicemen from any political activity for two years from the date of “retirement, release, resignation, discharge, removal or dismissal from the service”.

With Imran Khan’s former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi under arrest, others being rounded up including human rights activist Imaan Mazari, it’s clear the army is determined to teach (not for the first time), the politicians a lesson.

Pakistan watcher Sushant Sareen of the Observer Research Foundation, summed it up in one line: “A total shitshow in what can now easily be called the Banana Republic of Pakistan”.


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