Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

4 January 2020, Saturday

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence passes three bills changing the tenures of the Chief

PML-N and PPP agree to extend the tenure of three chiefs

PR Daily Brief | D. Suba Chandran

4 January 2020, Saturday

What happened?

On Friday, the Standing Committee on Defence of Pakistan’s National Assembly, in a record time, passed three separate bills to amend existing laws relating to the tenures of three services chiefs and also the chairman joint chiefs of staff committee. While the leading opposition political parties PML-N, PTI and JUI-F did not oppose the bills, a few smaller parties including the Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and National Party (NP) rejected the same.

The three bills will fix 64 years as the maximum age for the retirement for three services chiefs and also the CJCSC.

What is the background?

During 2019, the PTI government issued a notification to extend the tenure of Gen Qamar Bajwa, Chief of Pakistan’s Army. He was to retire in November 2019. The government cited regional security situation as a reason for extending Gen Bajwa’s term for three years. He was appointed in November 2019 as the Chief of Army Staff in 2016 by the PML-N government, following the retirement of Gen Raheel Sharif.

The Supreme Court rejecting the government’s notification asked the Parliament to look into the matter and pass appropriate legislation. However, it also gave a six months period for the continuation of Gen Bajwa as Army Chief, during which the Parliament is expected to pass the legislation.

The verdict of a three-member bench of the Supreme Court in November 2019: “The current appointment of General Qamar Javed Bajwa as COAS 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.” (Dawn, 28 November 2019)

The PTI government stayed silent on the verdict for a whole month and decided to introduce new legislation in January 2020, which was first passed by the Defence Committee on 3 January 2020.

The fact that the leading opposition parties – PML-N and PPP are onboard highlights the importance of the issue and also the strength of the military in Pakistani’s politics.

Though the smaller parties - JI, NP, PkMAP have opposed bills, in the Parliament, their presence is insignificant and is likely to make any impact in the passage of the bills.

According to a newspaper source, (Dawn, 4 January 2020) Clause 8B (1) relating to the extension of COAS service says: “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or any other law for the time being in force, the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister, may reappoint the Chief of the Army Staff for additional tenure of three (03) years, or extend the tenure (s) COAS up to three (03) years, on such terms and conditions, as may be determined by the president on the advice of the prime minister, in the national security interest or exigencies, from time to time.”

Section (2) of Clause 8B that says: “Notwithstanding anything contained in this act or any other law, or any order or judgment of any court, the appointment, reappointment or extension of the COAS, or the exercise of discretion by the appointing authority in this regard, shall not be called into question before any court on any ground whatsoever.”

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