• Shehbaz says president’s reference to meaningful consultations ‘out of place’
• Calls out president for being ‘blatantly partisan’, peddling ‘anti-govt’ narrative
ISLAMABAD: Hopes for a dialogue between the government and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) faded after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in a strongly-worded letter accused President Arif Alvi of being “biased and partisan”.
The premier in his letter to the president lambasted Mr Alvi for sending a letter to him [PM] in which he had asked the PM to assist all relevant institutions in holding elections in Punjab on April 30 as ordered by the Supreme Court.
On Friday, the president had asked the PM to direct federal and provincial authorities to assist the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in holding the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections in accordance with the orders of the Supreme Court to “avoid further complications”.
Before this exchange of letters, both sides had expressed intentions for talks to discuss issues of national importance, mainly to overcome the current political tussle and economic meltdown.
In the five-page strongly-worded letter to President Alvi, the PM called the president “blatantly partisan” and said the president openly espoused one-sided, anti-government, notwithstanding his constitutional oath of the president.
The premier said on many occasions the president had “violated his oath including the order of the dissolution of the National Assembly on April 3 and failure to discharge his constitutional duty” upon Shehbaz Sharif’s election as the prime minister.
“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 said in his letter.
PM Sharif in his rejoinder said the due process under Article 4 (right of individuals to be dealt with in accordance with law, etc) and 10A (Right to a fair trial) of the Constitution was being afforded to everyone. All the actions taken by the law enforcement agencies, he added, were being taken in accordance with the law.
Complete disregard for law
“Regrettably and ostensibly due to your party allegiance, you have failed to note the sheer isolation 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.
“Mr President, what has really ‘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 Pakistan is the complete disregard of the laws and the Constitution by the PTI,” the PM said.
He contended that the president had not once said anything regarding the conduct of former prime minister Imran Khan for his “aggressive, rather militant, attitude of a political order in complete defiance of court orders”.
The prime minister claimed that his government had ensured complete freedom of speech and expression as enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution, subject to “reasonable restrictions”.
“Regrettably again, you never raised your voice or shared your concerns in the manner that you have in your letter, in the past while the PTI was in power,” he added.
PM Sharif also quoted several media reports detailing the clampdown on media by the previous government, adding that the National Commission for Human Rights was kept “dysfunctional” during PTI’s 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. All of this, unfortunately, escaped your attention.”
‘Mala fide dissolution’
The prime minister further detailed what he called the “oppression” of his party when Imran’s government was in power. He also said that the president gave dates for elections in the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa “at the behest of the PTI” but did not raise any concerns about the “mala fide” dissolution of the provincial assemblies.
The letter emphasised that the president also did not take note of the effect of conducting elections in Punjab and KP before the National Assembly elections.
“This constitutional distortion has completely escaped your attention, which is quite saddening, given the role of the head of the state that the Constitution assigns to the president,” it added.
“The ECP has announced October 8, 2023, to be the new date for the polls in Punjab after taking into account the ground realities. All federal and provincial governmental authorities furnished the relevant information to the ECP. Being the constitutional body charged with the duty to organize and conduct elections, it is ultimately the ECP’s decision to assess whether the circumstances are conducive for organising and conducting free and fair elections, as required under clause (3) of Article 218,” he said.
“I do, however, wish to point out that you did not object to the use of language and a rather aggressive attitude of the federal ministers of the previous government, who actively attempted to undermine the authority and credibility of the ECP,” the prime minister added. Mr Sharif said President Alvi’s reference regarding meaningful consultations between the president and prime minister was “out of place”.
“Mr President, in the exercise of your functions, you must act on and in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or the Prime Minister under clause (1) of Article 48,” he added.
At the end of his letter, the PM said he was “fully aware” of his duties, asserting that his government was fully committed to preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution.
“However, 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 the state of Pakistan,” he added.
“I want to further assure you that our government will thwart any effort to undermine the constitutionally elected government,” the letter added.
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2023