‘Neutrals’ should be neutral,
good idea to appoint
next army chief before
November; says Arif Alvi

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ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi has said that the ‘neutral’ should remain neutral and it is good idea to appoint (Army chief) before November (this year).  He was talking to selective journalist in Islamabad on Tuesday and said that it is not a bad idea to appoint the next chief of army staff before the time fixed for appointment — November.

The president was asked what he thinks of the suggestion that the new army chief be appointed in advance due to the ongoing political crisis in the country. “It’s a good idea”, he said in response.

President Alvi said that it is suggested he “play his part” after meeting the army, naval or air chiefs, which he “cannot do”. He said that a dialogue is possible only when all the stakeholders agree. “The President House can play its role only in this case.”

President Dr. Arif Alvi

“The neutrals need to remain neutral always,” the president said. Elaborating further, he said that as the president of Pakistan, he does not have the constitutional authority to ask parties to have a dialogue.

“The elephant in the room has not appeared now, it has been there for 50 years,” he said, adding that the matter is a ground reality and that it can be solved through dialogue.

He said that he has received 74 summaries since the coalition government has come into office and he signed and forwarded 69 of them on the day of receiving them.

“I held back the summaries regarding NAB amendment Ordinance, electronic voting machines and the Punjab governor but I didn’t have any pressure to do so,” he said.

When asked, President Alvi said that he didn’t have any talk with PTI chairman Imran Khan on the matter of EVMs and NAB amendment ordinance and the last time they spoke was when there was an issue regarding the Punjab governor.

Moving on to the current situation in the top courts, Alvi said that he regrets that such an atmosphere has been created.

“I had appreciated the houbara bustard ruling by Justice Qazi Faez Isa,” he said, adding: “I don’t want to create controversy again and again. I forwarded the reference pertaining to Justice Isa that was sent to me,” the president.

He said that a person should change their views if the time and circumstances change. President Alvi said that a parliamentary system is better and he does not support the president’s authority to dissolve assemblies under Article 2B of the Constitution of Pakistan.

The president said that Article 6 should be applied to whoever commits treason.”If anyone believes that I have violated the Constitution then they may try me under Article 6 but neither have I violated the Constitution nor suspended it,” the president said.

“I personally think that a clear mandate is extremely important no matter what the time is,” President Alvi said.

Responding to a question about the foreign “threat” letter, Alvi said that the matter should be made public if it has been investigated.

The president said that the United States does not want to end relations with Pakistan. He appreciated Minister for Foreign Affairs Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s efforts to strengthen Pak-US ties.

Responding to another question, President Alvi said that the perception that relations between him and the prime minister are not good is wrong.

According to a report of ‘The News’, on a question of a grand dialogue between the political parties to end the crisis, Alvi said as president he does not have the constitutional role to ask stakeholders to hold talks.

“It is only possible if all the stakeholders agree to it and then the President House can play a role,” he said, as calls grow in the country for negotiations amid reports that the establishment is mulling a “soft intervention”.

He added that he is asked to “play his role” in the assistance of any of the services chiefs but “I can not do that.”

Echoing his party leader Imran Khan, Alvi said in the case of a changing situation one must also change their opinion.

The president said he is against the presidential power to dissolve assemblies under Article 58 2(b) – the provision which has not been removed from the constitution through the 18th Amendment. “A parliamentary system of governance is the best,” he said.

In response to a question, President Arif Alvi said “neutrals should always remain neutral”.

About a presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa, which was quashed by the Supreme Court, Alvi said the reference was sent to him and he forwarded it.

It is pertinent to note that PTI Chairman Imran Khan had admitted that it was a mistake to file the case against the SC judge.

Relationship with Shahbaz govt

While speaking about his relationship with the government of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, he said it is wrong to say that his ties with the PM are not good.

Alvi said since the new government came into power it sent me 74 summaries and “I returned 69 of them with my assent the same day”.

“Only summaries related to NAB ordinance, EVM machines and governor Punjab were withheld and there was no pressure on me to do so.”

The president said that he has certain questions in mind that he wanted clarifications on. He also denied that PTI Chairman Imran Khan had any role in the matter.

Last contact with Imran Khan

President Arif Alvi said that the last time he talked with his party chairman was during the Punjab governor issue. “I communicate with Imran Khan on WhatsApp.”

Commenting on a Supreme Court judge’s note in the case of former NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri’s ruling during the chief minister of Punjab election, Alvi said he did not violate the constitution or commit treason.”Charge whoever committed treason under Article 6.”