Arif Alvi denies having signed Official Secrets Act Amendment Act 2023 and Army Act Amendment 2023. File photo
The bills have already been passed by both houses of Pakistan's parliament but Alvi is a member of former prime minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which opposes the coalition government that passed the two bills.
"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," Alvi said on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
He said he had asked his staff to return the bills unsigned to the legislature within the stipulated time to make them ineffective. "However I have found out today that my staff undermined my will and command," he said. The president then went on to "ask forgiveness from those who will be affected" by the development.
Official Secrets Act
According to the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, a person will be guilty of an offense if he intentionally creates a problem of public order or acts against the state.
In addition, if a person attacks or damages a prohibited place and the purpose of this is to directly or indirectly benefit the enemy, then it is also punishable.
Under the said amendment bill, the accused will be tried in a special court and a decision will be taken after completing the hearing within 30 days.
The Army Act has provisions relating to the retirement of military personnel. According to this law, no military personnel will be able to participate in any political activity for two years after retirement, resignation or dismissal, while military personnel or officers performing duties related to the sensitive nature of duty shall not participate in political activities for five years after termination of service.
The ministry of law and justice said the president's decision was of "grave concern." "The President has two options: either give assent, or refer the matter to the parliament with specific observations," the ministry said in a statement, adding that the president had not fulfilled either option. "Such a course of action is against the letter and spirit of the constitution," it said.
According to the constitution, if the president doesn't sign a draft bill or return it back with his observations or objections within 10 days after it has already been through the two houses it will become law.
"As the president didn't sign and return the bill within 10 days, it became a law," caretaker law minister Ahmad Iran told a news conference.
Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said Alvi's comments on his personal social media account had no authority because he did not send back any objections to the bills within the stipulated timeframe. "It is just an attempt to create confusion. It has no legal value," Solangi said.
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