Pakistan Supreme Court grants six-month conditional extension to Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa

File photo of Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

File photo of Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday allowed a conditional extension of the Army chief’s term for six months, during which Parliament will have to legislate on the terms of service of the top general.

On Tuesday, the court had temporarily suspended a government notification granting a three-year extension to Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. A three-member Bench, comprising Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, heard the case and passed the order on Thursday.

“…we, while exercising judicial restraint, find it appropriate to leave the matter to Parliament and the federal government to clearly specify the terms and conditions of service of the COAS [Chief of Armed Staff] through an Act of Parliament and to clarify the scope of Article 243 of the Constitution in this regard,” said the court in its order.

It further stated that therefore, the current appointment of the Army chief “shall be subject to the said legislation and shall continue for a period of six months from today, whereafter the new legislation shall determine his tenure and other terms and conditions of service”.

Article 243 of the Constitution deals with the President and the federal government’s authority over the armed forces. In its latest notification, the government has said that Gen. Bajwa is being reappointed as Army chief in accordance with Article 243 which vests the power to appoint the supreme command of the armed forces with the President. The Supreme Court, however, said in its order that it could not find any provision relating to the tenure or reappointment of the Army chief “under the Constitution or the law”. It wants the new legislation to remove the legal ambiguities of the reappointment or extension of the Army chief.

Faisal Chaudhry, Additional Advocate General, Punjab, doesn’t think that there is a need to amend Article 243 for the new legislation.

“The terms and conditions of the service of the Army Chief can be regulated by passing a new enactment if the federal government decides so or the Pakistan Army Act 1952 can be amended to that extent and the lacunae — if there are any — can be filled by amending the existing law,” Mr. Chaudhry told The Hindu . He says the reason is that unlike other constitutional offices, like the judges of the superior court and the President of Pakistan, the Constitution does not envisage the tenure of the Army Chief and since there is no mention of the tenure in the Constitution, there is no requirement to bring an amendment in it.

There was some confusion regarding the tenure of the Army chief but former federal Law Minister Farogh Naseem, who had resigned from his Ministry to represent the Army chief in this case, addressed a press conference a few hours after the court order and clarified that his new tenure will begin from Thursday night. Mr. Naseem said the government will bring a law in six months to decide the chief’s tenure as it is the right of Parliament.

Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to give his reaction to the order. “Today must be a great disappointment to those who expected the country to be destabilised by a clash of institutions. That this did not happen must be of special disappointment to our external enemies & mafias within – Mafias who have stashed their loot abroad and seek to protect this loot by destabilising the country,” he tweeted, taking a veiled dig at the Opposition.

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Printable version | Jun 30, 2022 9:28:32 pm |