Didn’t sign Official Secrets, Army Act bills but staff passed them: Pakistan president Arif Alvi

Bizarre things regularly took place in Pakistan, which is always seeing volatile political situations. In the latest such incident, Pakistan’s president Arif Alvi has alleged that even after he had refused to sign two bills sent for his assent by the national assembly, the bills were passed by his staff without his knowledge.

On Sunday, 20th August 2023, Pakistan’s president Arif Alvi took to X to share post saying that he did not sign Official Secrets Amendment Bill 2023 & Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2023. He also said in his post that while he had told his staff that he disagreed with the bills and asked them to return the bills unsigned, his staff helped the bills pass behind his back.

Arif Arvi posted from his X handle, “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 the stipulated time to make them ineffective. I confirmed from them many times whether they have been returned & 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 Insh Allah. But I ask forgiveness from those who will be affected.”

On July 31, the National Assembly approved the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which seeks to impose a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment on those who reveal sensitive information related to national security or the armed forces. Likewise, shortly before the National Assembly’s dissolution on August 7, the Official Secrets Act was endorsed. The bills were passed after some amendments were made after they were sent to the standing committee.

After receiving approval from both the Senate and the National Assembly, a decision that garnered disapproval from legislators in both the ruling and opposition factions, the bills were submitted to the president for final endorsement. The president also encountered strong opposition from his own party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), for his decision to sign the bills. He has now retracted and said that his staff helped pass these bills without letting him know.

It’s worth noting that Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Imran Khan, both prominent figures within PTI, were apprehended subsequent to the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against them under the Official Secrets Act. This action was taken due to their alleged disclosure of diplomatic cypher contents for political advantages on August 15. In the wake of President Alvi’s disclosures, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) conveyed its profound apprehensions.

PIT tweeted, “Tweet of the President on the issue of signatures on the draft amendments to the Official Secrets Act and the Army Act. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has expressed deep concern over the president’s tweet The President’s tweet is unusual, alarming and unimaginable in every respect. After the President’s tweet, a serious wave of anxiety and anxiety has arisen in the entire nation. The president’s tweet has exposed to the nation the most deadly infection spreading from top to bottom in the state system. Examining the contents of the President’s tweet from every angle and every aspect, Tehreek-e-Insaf Spokesman will present his response to the nation after a detailed review of the President’s tweet.”

While the president has asked for forgiveness for his staff from Allah, political and legal experts say that President Alvi should imitate legal proceedings against his staff and his apology was not enough, reported Geo TV.

The Army Act provides the legal framework for imposing a maximum sentence of five years of rigorous imprisonment on individuals found guilty of divulging any information obtained in an official capacity. This information is deemed to be or potentially be detrimental to the security and interests of Pakistan or its armed forces.

The proposed changes will extend to both active-duty and retired officers and personnel of the Pakistan Army. These amendments encompass various aspects such as the authority to bestow commissions, establish terms and conditions of service, undertake welfare initiatives, contribute to national development endeavours, and address operational and institutional affairs. These changes are in accordance with the directives of Pakistan’s Supreme Court’s judgment.

The updated version of the Official Secrets Act grants the Federal Investigation Agency of Pakistan the authority to carry out investigations on individuals who are suspected of contravening its provisions. Furthermore, the revised bill eliminates the amendment that previously categorised individuals as enemies merely for being involved with foreign agents.

An important amendment in the Official Secrets Act 1923 says that under this Act “the Investigation Officer shall be an officer of the FIA not below the rank of BPS-17 or equivalent and he shall be designated by Director General FIA. If Director General FIA deems necessary, he may appoint a Joint Investigation Team consisting of officers of intelligence agen¬cies as he may appoint.”

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