Pakistan

Alvi in the crosshairs after Imran’s letter


When Imran Khan was ousted from power following a parliamentary vote of no-confidence and was replaced by Shehbaz Sharif as the new prime minister in April, one person was stuck between his constitutional duty and loyalty to his party.

Before becoming the president, Arif Alvi was one of the senior leaders of PTI and remained thick and thin with Imran during all those years of his struggle.

Now, suddenly he had to deal with the prime minister, whom his leader believes was thrust upon Pakistan through a foreign conspiracy. Therefore, President Alvi was under pressure not to cooperate with the coalition government.

At the start, he did follow what his leader wanted, refusing to administer an oath to the newly-elected prime minister. But later he accepted the reality and tried to act as head of the state instead of a PTI loyalist. President Alvi of late has been stressing the need for dialogue among the stakeholders and hosted at least two meetings between the army chief and the deposed prime minister.

But it is believed that the PTI chief was not happy with President Alvi, particularly after the failed assassination attempt against him. Imran wanted a clear stance from the president.

When the president went to inquire about Imran at Shaukat Khanum Hospital in Lahore, Alvi had an extended meeting with his party chief on the current political issues.

Political observers believe that it was that extended meeting, which led Imran to write a letter to the president seeking action against certain senior military officials.

In his letter, the PTI called on President Alvi to “act now” and stop the abuse of power as well as the violation of laws and the Constitution.

In a letter to the president on Sunday, the former premier stated that since the removal of the PTI government, the country has been “confronted with an ever-increasing scale of false allegations, harassment, arrests, and custodial torture”.

He alleged that Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah “repeatedly issued death threats” to him and that he was informed of an assassination plot “hatched by PM Shehbaz, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah” and a senior military official.

“The plot was operationalised earlier this week during our long march, but Allah saved me and the assassination attempt failed,” he stated.

Imran requested that as the head of the State of Pakistan and “also as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces under Article 243 (2)” of the Constitution, President Alvi take note of the “following serious wrongdoings that undermine Pakistan’s national security”.

He further asked Alvi to lead an inquiry to identify the guilty “and hold them accountable”.

In a three-point list, he highlighted the “wrongdoings”.

Firstly, he maintained that “a breach of the Official Secrets Act occurred when [a] confidential conversation between myself as PM, the COAS [chief of armed staff]” and another military official were leaked to the media.

He claimed that this raised the “very serious question as to who or what organisation was involved in doing a clearly illegal wiretap of the PM's secure phone line”, adding that the incident was a breach of national security at the highest level.

In his second point, he stated that the issue of the cipher was “sent by our ambassador to the US in which the US official conveyed a direct threat of regime change to our envoy who reported the same in quotes as was conveyed to him”.

He furthered that the National Security Council (NSC) meeting held on the issue during his reign as the premier “clearly decided this was an unacceptable intrusion into our internal matters and the NSC decided on a demarche to be issued by MoFA to the US envoy in Islamabad”.

Imran further stated that the NSC decision was “reaffirmed by the NSC meeting held under the Shehbaz Sharif government”.

“In view of this, a joint press conference held on 27 October 2022 by the DG ISI and the DG ISPR that had the former contradicting the decision made by the NSC under two governments and stating that the message of the US government conveyed by our envoy in Washington DC in the cipher was not an unacceptable intrusion into our internal affairs but simply a case of 'misconduct'”.

He questioned how two military officials could “publicly contradict a decision of the NSC” and pointed to the “serious issue of these military bureaucrats deliberately trying to create a false narrative”.

According to the PTI chief, two other questions that should be investigated were “how the head of Pakistan's premier intelligence agency can do a public press conference”; and “how can two military bureaucrats do a highly political press conference targeting the leader of the largest and perhaps the only federal political party in Pakistan today”.

Lastly, Imran stated that “the parameters of a military information organisation such as the ISPR also need to be clearly defined and limited to information relating to defence and military issues”.

He called on President Alvi “as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces” to initiate the “drawing up of these clear operational lines for the ISPR”.

Imran stated that he and the president led Pakistan and that Alvi “must protect its democracy and its Constitution”.

“No person or state institution can be above the law of the land,” he said.

The deposed premier reiterated that the country was observing a “massive abuse of citizens at the hands of rogue elements within state organisations, including custodial torture and abductions”, all of which he claimed were “carried out with impunity”.

“You hold the highest Office of State and I am requesting you to act now to stop the abuse of power and violations of our laws and of the Constitution, which ensures the fundamental rights of every citizen,” Imran concluded.

Despite Imran’s letter, experts believe that the president has no legal or constitutional power to do anything.

“At best he can forward the letter to the ministry of defence or the GHQ,” commented Ahmed Bilal Mehbood, the executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT).

President may be the commander-in-chief but in reality, he has no executive powers, and he can only act on the advice of the prime minister.

“But he can create a nuisance,” Bilal said adding, that it would be a suicidal step by the president.


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