Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif termed President Dr. Arif Alvi’s letter proof of his blatant partisanship and read like a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) press release.
President Alvi wrote to PM Shehbaz on Friday, urging him to direct all federal and provincial executive authorities to help the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) hold elections in Punjab and K-P within the constitutional timeframe.
In his response to the president today, the premier accused Dr. Alvi of openly supporting PTI’s anti-government views in violation of his oath and position, adding that he had also acted in a similar partisan manner on multiple occasions.
The premier wrote in response to President Alvi’s March 24 letter, saying the president has continuously advocated PTI’s one-sided, anti-government views despite his constitutional oath and office.”I am constrained to express, at the outset, my disappointment at the blatantly partisan nature of your letter, which in parts reads like a Press Release of the Opposition political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI),”
PM Shehbaz noted that the president had violated his oath multiple times by acting in a similar partisan manner.
The PM’s strong letter cited the president’s order to dissolve the National Assembly on April 3, 2022, on illegal instructions from previous PM Imran Khan, which the Supreme Court found unconstitutional on April 7.
Second, PM Shehbaz said the president neglected to contact him when he became PM and administered the oath of office, as required by clause (5) of Article 91.
“The only reason I am responding to your letter is to bring your partisan attitude and actions on record and to set our government’s record straight,” the PM said.
PM’s letter stated that the president offered general election dates to Punjab and K-P provincial assemblies at the PTI’s request, but the Supreme Court’s March 1, 2023, judgment overturned the decision.
“You have not raised any concerns on the malafide dissolution of the Provincial Assemblies of the two provinces, that too at the behest of and to satisfy the ego of the Chairman, PTI,” PM Shehbaz said.
The premier claimed that the two provincial assemblies were dissolved to blackmail the center and the other two provinces into dissolving the national and provincial assemblies.
The PM said the president had not considered the impact of holding elections in these two provinces before the general elections to the National Assembly, as elected provincial governments in Punjab and K-P may prevent free and fair elections under clause (3) of Article 218.
“This constitutional distortion has completely escaped your attention, which is quite saddening, given the president’s role as head of state,” the PM wrote.
PM Shehbaz further remarked that the ECP had announced October 8, 2023, as the new Punjab election date after considering ground realities, stating all federal and provincial governmental authorities provided the required information to the ECP.
He emphasized that the ECP, as the constitutional authority responsible for organizing and conducting elections, must determine if conditions favor free and fair elections under clause (3) of Article 218.
“I do, however, wish to point out that you did not object to the use of language and rather an aggressive attitude of the federal ministers of the previous government, who actively attempted to undermine the authority and credibility of the ECP,” the PM said.
In his letter, the president also ordered PM Shehbaz to address human rights abuses by authorities, mostly targeting the PTI chairman and his party workers.
In response, PM Shehbaz accused president Alvi of actively undermining a constitutionally elected government and objected to the tone and language of the letter, saying that his reference to the alleged violation of fundamental and human rights violations of politicians and political workers was clearly about PTI politicians and workers, his party.
PM Shehbaz stated, “All actions taken by the law enforcement agencies are strictly by the law to maintain law and order and establish the writ of the state.”
The PM also stated that most legal action victims had sought legal recourse.
PM Shehbaz wrote, “Regrettably and ostensibly due to your party allegiance, you [president] 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 Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).”
“Mr. President, what has tarnished the image of Pakistan in the international community and is casting negative repercussions on the future of democracy and state of human rights in Paldstan’ is the complete disregard of the laws and constitution by the PTI,” he said.
PM Shehbaz added, “you have not, on any occasion, uttered even a single word regarding the conduct of Mr. Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi, Chairman, PTI, on his actions in response to lawfully issued court orders for appearance in criminal proceedings.”
“Never in our history have we witnessed such aggressive, rather militant, attitude of a political order in complete defiance of court orders,” the premier said.
He said the PML-N-led administration had ensured complete freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 of the constitution, subject to reasonable constraints. “Regrettably again,” he said, “you never raised your voice or shared your concerns in the manner you have in your letter while the PTI was in power.”
PM Shehbaz called the president’s attention to HRW’s World Report 2022, which covers 2021 when the PTI was in power.
According to Human Rights Watch, PM said, “the Pakistan government intensified its efforts to control the media and curtail dissent, authorities harassed and sometimes detained journalists and other members of civil society for criticizing government officials and politics. Media violence persists.”
The PM also cited Aljazeera’s January 14, 2022, report on HRW’s World Report 2022, which stated that the previous government kept the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) dysfunctional for most of its tenure.
He stated it purposely hindered the appointment of the NCHR’s members and chairwoman mainly because the NCHR had produced a devastating report on human rights during the previous government. He added that various international human rights assessments criticize the former government’s grave human rights violations and Pakistani citizens’ fundamental rights. The PM said, “Unfortunately, all of this escaped your attention.”
He further claimed that the president did not object when the previous government launched a witch hunt against the opposition, accusing Rana Sanaullah Khan, then an MNA, of a manufactured and bogus narcotics case that carried the death penalty. In addition, he claimed that PTI lawmakers falsely accused other opposition party lawmakers of political victimization.
The PM said the NAB was used to suppress political opposition and dissent, including a female member of the former PM’s family. “Unfortunately,” he said. He stated that the constitution does not give the president any powers or functions to ask the administration or PM for an explanation.
PM Shehbaz said the president’s reference to Article 46 of the constitution and Rule 15(5)(b) of the Rules of Business, 1973, to conclude that the president and prime minister should consult meaningfully was “out of place.”
Mr. President, you must follow the Cabinet or PM’s advice under clause (1) of Article 48.
PM Shehbaz noted that the president has constitutional discretion in rare cases. Article 46 and Rule 15(5)(b) are theirs. Inform the president. Nothing more and nothing less,” he added, adding that these provisions or anything else in the constitution do not need the PM to consult the president on federal executive authority.
Finally, PM told President Alvi, “I am fully aware of my duties and the federal government’s duties under the constitution.” The PM told the President that the administration would uphold the constitution and protect Pakistanis’ fundamental rights.
“However,” he said, “our government is also determined to ensure that no one is allowed to violate the law, create unrest and attempt to cause irreparable harm to Pakistan. I want to reassure you that our government would stop any attempts to overthrow the constitutionally elected government.”