ISLAMABAD: A day after President Dr Arif Alvi’s exploded a ‘bombshell’ by claiming that his staff “undermined his will and command” regarding his assent to the Official Secrets Act and the Pakistan Army Act, the President’s Secretariat followed up and said that the services of Secretary to President Waqar Ahmed were “no more required” and sought a replacement.

“In view of the definite statement of yesterday, President’s Secretariat has written a letter to Principal Secretary to Prime Minister that the services of Mr. Waqar Ahmed, Secretary to President, are no more required and are surrendered to the Establishment Division, immediately,” said a statement posted on the President of Pakistan’s official account on X (formerly Twitter).

“It has also been desired that Ms. Humaira Ahmed, a BPS-22 officer of the Pakistan Administrative Service, may be posted as Secretary to the President,” the statement added.

President Alvi had on Sunday stirred a controversy by asserting that he had not personally signed two disputed pieces of legislation, namely the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill 2023 and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2023 — a day after they were deemed to have become acts of parliament.

Both the bills were approved by the Senate and National Assembly and sent to the president for his approval amid criticism by opposition lawmakers a few weeks ago.

On Saturday, reports surfaced that the president had given his assent to both the bill, only for him to claim the next day that he had not signed the bills and that his staff “undermined” his directives.

Bill debacle

The unprecedented claims made by the president opened the floodgates of claims and counter-claims, prompting a weekend presser by the caretaker ministers for law and information, as well as a barrage of recriminations from the former ruling party, PTI.

In a tweet on X, President Alvi had pointed the finger at his staff, saying he was duped by the presidency staff who did not return the said “unsigned” bills despite repeated directives.

“As God is my witness, I did not sign Official Sec­rets Amendment Bill, 2023 and Pakistan Army Ame­ndment Bill, 2023 as I disagreed with these laws,” the president had said in his tweet.

He claimed he had asked his staff to return the bills unsigned within the stipulated time to make them “ineffective”, but his staff did not do so and lied that the bills had been returned.

“I confirmed from them many times whether they [the bills] have been returned and 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 Insha’Allah. But I ask forgiveness from those who will be affected,” the president had written on X.

Hours after President Alvi’s statement, a gazette notification issued by the Senate Secretariat surfaced, stating that the two bills were “deemed to have been assented by the president”.

According to the notification, the Of­­ficial Secrets (Amend­m­ent) Bill, 2023 was deemed to have been approved by the president with effect from August 17 and the Pakistan Army (Amend­ment) Bill, 2023 from August 11.

Section 6-A of the secrets act creates a new offence of unauthorised disclosure of the identities of members of intelligence agencies, informants or sources. The offence would be punishable by up to three years in jail and a fine of up to Rs10 million.

The Army Act paves the way for the punishment of up to five-year rigorous imprisonment to any person guilty of disclosing any information, acquired in an official capacity that is or may be prejudicial to the security and interest of Pakistan or the armed forces.

One of the amendments in the act accords more powers to the army chief and barred ex-servicemen from engaging in politics as well as taking up ventures, which could come into conflict with the army’s interest. It also proposed imprisonment for defamation of the army.

The new law also forbids any person subject to the army act from engaging in any kind of political activity for two years from the date of their “retirement, release, resignation, discharge, removal or dismissal from the service.

The president’s statement on Sunday came a day after PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi was picked up in connection with a first information report registered on Aug 15 under the Official Secrets Act against the former foreign minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

The case was registered after an American news outlet The Intercept rece­ntly published what was clai­med to be the diplomatic cable which had reportedly gone missing from Imran’s possession.

Imran, who was interrogated by Federal Investigation Agency a few days ago in the cipher case in Attock jail where he was lodged after his conviction in the Toshakhana case, claimed he was ousted from office last year under a “US conspiracy”. The PTI alleges that cipher contained the threat from the United States to oust Imran from power.

Last week, the president had returned over a dozen bills for reconsideration by Parliament. The returned bills had been passed by both houses of parliament at the fag end of the PML-N-led government’s term, and their fate will be decided after general elections when a new National Assembly is in place.


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