In an unpredictable turn of events, Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi has revealed that he did not sign the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023, asserting that his instructions were undermined by his staff.
The disclosure was made through a post on the microblogging platform X, formerly known as Twitter, just a day after he had seemingly given his assent to the two bills.
“Swearing by God as my witness, I want to make it clear that I did not sign the Official Secrets Amendment Bill 2023 & Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2023, as I held disagreements with these laws,” President Alvi stated on X (Twitter).
He continued, “I had instructed my staff to return the bills unsigned within the specified timeframe in order to render them ineffective. I inquired numerous times whether they had been returned, and I was repeatedly assured that they had been.”
“However, I have now discovered that my staff acted against my intentions and commands. As Allah is aware of all things, I am confident of His forgiveness. Nevertheless, I sincerely apologize to those who will be affected by this,” he added.
The revelation by President Alvi has ignited concerns within the ranks of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the political party he is affiliated with. The PTI labeled his social media post as “unusual, alarming, and unimaginable from every aspect.”
In an official statement on its X account, the PTI voiced its apprehension: “The president’s tweet has unveiled to the nation a grave problem infecting the state system from top to bottom.”
The PTI pledged to respond more comprehensively to President Alvi’s statements once they have been thoroughly reviewed.
Experts in both political and legal domains are suggesting that President Alvi’s apology might not suffice, and he might need to initiate legal action against the staff members who allegedly acted against his wishes.
The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which was passed by the National Assembly on July 31, carries provisions that entail up to five years of imprisonment for individuals found guilty of revealing sensitive information concerning national security or the armed forces.
Concurrently, the Official Secrets Act was greenlit shortly before the National Assembly’s dissolution on August 7.
Following approvals from both the Senate and National Assembly, despite facing criticism from lawmakers of both the ruling and opposition parties, the bills were presented to President Alvi for final endorsement.
President Alvi’s own political party, the PTI, was also critical of his decision to sign these bills. The situation seems to have sparked a broader conversation about the accountability and integrity of government institutions.