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Pakistan president defies military, refuses to approve new laws

In a move that the law ministry deemed unconstitutional, Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi said on Sunday that he had declined to sign into law two laws that would have given authorities wider authority to prosecute people for activities against the state and military.

Both houses of Pakistan’s parliament have previously approved the two measures, but Alvi is a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which is opposed to the coalition government that supported the 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 in a statement on social media.

He said that in order to render the bills ineffectual, he had instructed his staff to return them to the legislature unsigned within the allotted time.

“However I have found out today that my staff undermined my will and command,” he said.

The president’s choice was deemed to be of “grave concern” by Pakistan’s ministry of law and justice.

“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,” the ministry said in a statement.

A draught bill will become law if the president doesn’t sign it or send it back within 10 days after it has passed both chambers with his comments or objections, as required by the constitution.