Controversy rages on as official picked by Alvi ‘refuses’ to work with him

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By Webdesk

President Arif Alvi. Photo: APP/File
President Arif Alvi. Photo: APP/File
  • Presidency requests PMO to appoint Humaira Ahmed as secretary.
  • Official removed by Alvi ready to prove his innocence in court.
  • President accuses his staff of “undermining his will and command”.

ISLAMABAD: The controversy surrounding the approval of two controversial bills deepened further on Monday as the officer picked by President Arif Alvi refused to work as his principal secretary, The News reported Tuesday. 

On Monday, Alvi requested the Prime Minister Office to remove Waqar Ahmed as his principal secretary and appoint Humaira Ahmad, a grade-22 DMG officer, currently working as federal secretary of national heritage and culture division, in his place.

A day after President Alvi’s startling revelation about not signing the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the President’s Secretariat said that the services of Waqar Ahmed were no more required and are surrendered to the Establishment Division with immediate effect.

Subsequently, in a letter to the principal secretary to the Prime Minister (PSPM) Dr Syed Tauqir Hussain Shah, it was requested to replace Waqar with Humaira — a grade-22 DMG officer.

Humaira had earlier served as PSPr and opted to leave the assignment at her own request and was posted as federal secretary science and technology before being transferred to the national heritage division.

Meanwhile, the sources said that no transfer and posting could be possible without the permission of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after the dissolution of the assemblies.

The massive transfers and postings made three days back including change of chief secretaries of the provinces and large reshuffling in the federal secretaries where about half a dozen senior officers were asked to report to the Establishment Division.

Removed official seeks inquiry 

Hours after his removal, a confidential letter came to light in which Waqar Ahmed clarified his position regarding the bills.

The official said that the president neither assented to the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023 nor gave a written decision for returning them to parliament for reconsideration.

Wawar clarified that the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill was received on August 2 and sent to the president on August 3.

President Alvi, he added, had the 10-day time to advise on the bill till August 11.

“The Honourable President neither assented to the Bill nor gave a written decision for returning the Bill for reconsideration by the Parliament. The said file has not been returned to the Office of Secretary to date i.e. 21.08-2023,” the letter stated.

Meanwhile, the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill was received on August 8 and was moved to the president’s office on August 9.

“It was clearly stated in the Note that the Prime Minister’s advice was received on 08-08-2023 and time of 10 days will be completed on 17.08.2023 (Thursday),” the letter also stated.

However, the letter added that the president neither assented to the bill nor gave a written decision for returning the bill for reconsideration by parliament.

Waqar Ahmed further said that he “neither delayed above mentioned two bills nor committed any irregularity or negligence”. He added that the files of the bills are still lying in the President’s Office as of today (August 21).

He said that the president’s decision for the surrender of his services was not based on justice.

“I request that the Honourable President may kindly order an inquiry by FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) or any other Agency to probe the facts and fix the responsibility for any lapse if committed by any officer or official,” he said.

Waqar further said that he would present himself in court if it is needed to prove his innocence.

“It is requested that U.O. dated 21-08-2023 regarding surrendering of my services to the Establishment Division may kindly be withdrawn,” he added.

The President House has not yet offered any rejoinder on Waqar’s response whereas the press secretary to the President was not available for his comments on the development.

The controversy

On August 20, President Alvi revealed on the microblogging website X that he had not signed the two bills, triggering a massive controversy in the country.

“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,” President Alvi had said on X, previously known as Twitter.

“I asked my staff to return the bills unsigned within stipulated time to make them ineffective. I confirmed from them many times that 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 IA. But I ask forgiveness from those who will be effected,” he had added.

A day later, the president surrendered the services of his secretary without elaborating on the controversy and the official’s role in it.

“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,” read a statement posted on the President of Pakistan’s official account on X.

According to reports, Army Act Amendment and Secrets bills were sent to the president for his ascent on August 2 and 8, respectively and the lower house of parliament was dissolved on 9th of the same month, three days ahead of the expiration of the deadline for the president to decide on the bill.

On Saturday, it was reported that the president had signed the bills approved by the National Assembly and the Senate, after which both bills became law. However, on Sunday, the president denied signing the bills.

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