"It's premature to say what I will decide as I have not seen the bill," Arif Alvi says
President Arif Alvi on Wednesday cast aspersions over the "timing" of the legislation aimed at curbing the Chief Justice of Pakistan's (CJP) powers, noting that — given the current circumstances — it could have either been presented earlier or later.
"It's premature to say what I will decide as I have not seen the bill. This is a time of crisis, and I wish to play a positive role," the president said during an interview with Geo News' Hamid Mir.
In a bid to bolster checks and balances in the higher judiciary, the National Assembly passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023.The legislation seeks to limit Pakistan's top judge's discretionary powers to take suo motu notice and form benches.
The bill will now be sent to Senate and following parliament's approval, it will be forwarded to the president for signing off — and he has usually created hurdles during legislation since the incumbent government came into power last year in April.
Meanwhile, as the debate continues, a special Supreme Court bench, with a two to one majority, ordered suspending all suo motu cases — under Article 184(3) of the Constitution — until amendments are made to the Supreme Court Rules governing the chief justice's discretionary powers.
In the interview, the president mentioned that whenever he gives an opinion, it is termed that it is not his, but of the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
The president's comment came after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif informed Alvi that his letter regarding the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) elections read like a PTI press release.
"Sometimes in anger and pressure, people tend to say things that shouldn't," the president told Mir.
He added that when institutions are pressurised, then the "cracks" appear. "These cracks of trouble are visible in all institutions today. There is space to compromise in every situation."
The president also said that when democratic powers are at war, then the Constitution comes in danger.
The president added that he has expressed concerns — with the nation and ex-PM Khan — over the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) move to delay the polls in Punjab till October 8.
The president had given the date of April 30 after orders from the Supreme Court. However, on March 22, postponed the upcoming elections citing security reasons as the major cause behind the change of plan.
Following this, KP Governor Haji Ghulam Ali also penned a letter to the ECP and asked that the polls in his province be staged on the same date as Punjab.
Amid the setback, PTI — which had dissolved both assemblies in January for holding early elections — moved the Supreme Court and the case is being heard by a five-member bench, including CJP Bandial.
Meanwhile, the president said the present government believes that it had "sacrificed" its political capital to save the nation. "The government thinks that if elections are held then it will face defeat."