ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif sharply reacted to President Dr Arif Alvi’s letter on Sunday, saying it looked like a press release of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and it did not conform to his [president’s] constitutional status.
The president wrote to PM Shehbaz, urging him to ensure the implementation of Supreme Court’s orders in relation to the general election in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
However, the prime minister, in his letter, replied that the president’s letter was one-sided and held anti-government views. He said the letter was ‘blatantly partisan in nature’ and supported Imran Khan-led party’s ‘one-sided and anti-government’ views.
“You openly express anti-government views and your letter was not reflective of the president’s constitutional role and this is what you’re constantly doing,” wrote the premier.
Criticising the president, Shehbaz said the head of state followed former prime minister Imran Khan’s unconstitutional instructions by dissolving the National Assembly — which was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on April 7. He added that President Alvi also failed to fulfill the constitutional duty to administer the oath to him as the prime minister under Article 91, Clause 5.
“Despite the foregoing and several other instances, where you actively worked towards undermining a constitutionally elected government, I have made all-out efforts to maintain a good working relationship with you. However, the contents of your letter, its tone and language have compelled me to respond to it,” the premier stated.
“Regrettably and ostensibly due to your party allegiance, you have failed to note the sheer violation of laws, contumacious disregard of court orders, attacking the law enforcement agencies, damaging public property, attempts to create chaos, civil and political unrest and in short, to bring the country to the brink of economic default and civil war, by the PTI,” said PM Shehbaz.
He also criticised the president for not commenting on deposed prime minister Imran Khan’s failure to appear in courts. The premier stressed that the incumbent government had ensured that there is “complete freedom of speech and expression, as enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution”.
While referring to attacks on media persons and journalists, Shehbaz also criticised the former PTI government for keeping the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) dysfunctional for most of its tenure. “There are several reports of international human rights organisations, which reflect poorly on the track record of the previous government on severe violations of human rights and the fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan,” the premier said.
He also drew the president’s attention towards the political victimisation of opposition lawmakers during the PTI rule, notably the narcotics case, entailing the death penalty against Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah — who was then an MNA — and NAB cases against Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) leader Maryam Nawaz.
“Mr President, the Constitution does not vest any powers in or assign any functions to the President whereby the President can seek an explanation from the government or the prime minister. The only reason I am responding to your letter is because I want to bring your partisan attitude and actions on record and to set the record of our government straight,” he added.
In his letter, the prime minister further criticized the president, saying that he gave the dates for elections at the PTI’s behest. He added that the president’s decision to give an election date for the KP Assembly was set aside by the apex court. “You have not raised any concerns on the mala fide dissolution of the provincial assemblies of the two provinces, that too at the behest of and to satisfy the ego of the chairman, PTI,” he continued.
Responding to the reference made in the president’s letter of Article 46 of the Constitution and Rule 15(5) of the Rules of Business, 1973 on holding of meaningful consultations between the president and prime minister, he said, the objection was out of place. Under clause (1) of Article 48, the president, in the exercise of his functions, must act on and in accordance with the advice of the cabinet or the prime minister, he added.
The prime minister also highlighted that it was the electoral body’s decision to assess whether the circumstances allow polls to be held. PM Shehbaz concluded his letter by saying that he is “fully aware” of his duties and the duties of the government.
“Our government is fully committed to preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution and ensuring that the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens of Pakistan are not violated,” he continued. He said that the government is also determined to ensure that no one is allowed to violate the law, create unrest and attempt to cause irreparable harm to the state of Pakistan. “I want to further assure you that our government will thwart any efforts to undermine the constitutionally elected government,” he added.
The prime minister noted: “In very limited instances, the President acts in his discretion under the Constitution. Article 46 and Rule 15 (5) (b) supra are what they ordain. That is to keep the president informed. Nothing more and nothing less.
“These provisions, or for that matter, nothing else in the Constitution requires the prime minister to consult the president on the exercise of executive authority by the federal government.”Shehbaz observed that the assemblies were dissolved to blackmail the governments at the Centre and provincial governments in a bid to force them to dissolve the National Assembly and the other two provincial assemblies. “You have not taken note of the effect of conducting elections to these two provinces prior to the general election to the National Assembly inasmuch as organising and conducting free and fair elections under Clause (3) of Article 218 may not be possible with elected provincial governments in Punjab and KP,” he wrote, adding that this constitutional distortion was not looked into by the president.