Days after a judgment by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa quoted an SC judge’s 2022 note that the president had transgressed the constitution by dissolving the National Assembly in April last year, President Arif Alvi has sought to defend himself by saying that the judge quoted by the CJ had written a dissenting opinion and this was not a majority judgment.

Speaking in a detailed interview to a TV channel on Friday, the president said that he would like to appreciate the CJ and the Supreme Court for ensuring the elections are held and for saying that this matter was now like a line etched in stone: “I have previously also said that since the Supreme Court is looking at this then the elections will definitely be held”.Responding to criticism also raised in the apex court regarding him not giving a definitive date for the elections, the president said that he had written a letter and also asked [the CEC] for a meeting but that he was bound to take the advice of the government. “The law ministry and all provincial law ministers were of the opinion that I couldn’t give a date — as did the PDM government. Who was I supposed to seek advice from? I’m not a lawyer. It was the government and the law ministry [that I could ask] and they all said don’t give a date. Despite that I gave a date, quoting them too so that the matter was on record.”In his judgment on the elections issue, the CJ had taken note of how President Arif Alvi had dissolved the National Assembly when former prime minister Imran Khan faced a vote of no-confidence in April last year, adding that this was not within the president’s powers. The CJ had also noted that one of the SC judges had said in 2022 that constitutional authority “was violated amongst others by the president, PM, the speaker, the deputy speaker and the law minister as the elected representatives of the people were prevented from voting on the resolution and for such blatant transgression of the constitution there must be consequences and the law must take its course.” On being asked about this during the interview, President Alvi asked: “Was it a majority judgment that said that the president should not have dissolved the assembly? It was one judge who wrote that decision… a dissenting opinion.”The president also clarified the matter raised by the chief justice on how he had posted the election date issue on social media — the SC judgment says: “a message of the president, conveyed through social media (X, formerly Twitter) [had called] for the views of the ECP on the announcement of a date for holding elections. If the said message was that of the president, it leads one to question whether the country can be run on the basis of messaging on social media”. According to the president, “”I had first written a letter to the CEC and then posted it on social media only after it had been received”.President Alvi said that in his opinion, “[Imran Khan] made a big mistake in thinking that the constitution would remain paramount and that when [the PTI] left parliament elections would be held. Lawyers kept saying that it’s just not possible that there won’t be elections in Punjab in 90 days. But the reality on the ground was that so many things were working against the constitution…. Now it’s time to repair this. Pakistan needs democratic maturity. When you move away from the constitution you have long-term damage.”Commenting on the reservations regarding transparency of elections, President Alvi said that he had communicated to the prime minister as well that all of Pakistan wants transparent and nonpartisan elections in which all parties can contest and the results of which are acceptable to all and are not controversial…. I am confident that the way the Supreme Court has been united in this matter makes justice possible too”.Speaking further on the elections, the president said that Pakistan “wants fair, free and credible elections. The IMF wants that; analysts want that. For fair and free elections, two institutions are important: the ECP and the caretaker government[s]. These institutions need to work together for this”.The country’s economy cannot move forward without political stabilization, said the president who also pointed out that one of the challenges Pakistan faces is Afghanistan, “which our army has also raised and our PM has also spoken of infiltration from there [Afghanistan].” He explained that Pakistan has hosted scores of Afghans. “We shared our limited resources with our Afghan brothers. We hosted them despite our culture being at risk. But sometimes it seems that instead of us being seen as a brother or a friend our generosity has not been appreciated [across the border]. This is something that I am also personally upset about.”The president spoke at length about the elite capture in Pakistan, saying that “The solutions to our crises are staring us in the face. It is the failure of leadership in Pakistan that is the crux. Even the IMF has been asking us to tax the elite. We are not taxing the elite”.The president did not directly respond to the question of whether the PML-N was getting more of a ‘level playing field’ in the coming elections but said that the media is how people get to know such issues. Meanwhile, on Friday Caretaker Minister for Information and Broadcasting Murtaza Solangi expressed concern over the president’s recent statement regarding the absence of a level-playing field for all political parties, saying that such statements seem to conflict with the president’s constitutional role and the president needs to prioritize his role as the head of state over any partisan affiliations.During the interview, the president said that all political parties need to sit together and stop fighting. “I have been appealing to all political parties that they all need to compromise with each other and not fight. This country will not be united if they keep fighting.” On being asked if Nawaz Sharif calls a meeting of all parties, should the PTI attend, the president reiterated: “I feel all political parties need to sit together. When the boat is rocky, everyone needs to get together and make sure we don’t sink”.The president said that he had previously also condemned the May 9 incidents and feels that the law should take its course. What will Imran Khan’s political fate be? To this question, President Alvi said that this is up to the people and the law and the courts, adding that Imran Khan has stood by his principles.

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