Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

8 January 2020, Wednesday 

Parliament passes the bills to extend the tenures of chiefs, with support from the main opposition

While the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and National Party (NP) oppose the bills, rest of the opposition vote along with the PTI

PR Daily Brief | D. Suba Chandran

8 January 2020, Wednesday 

What happened?
The National Assembly passed three bills - the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Bill 2020, in record time. This would allow the government to extend the tenures of three Chiefs and also the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. 

While the smaller parties including the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and National Party (NP) did not vote in favour of the bills, two primary opposition parties – the PML-N and the PPP voted in favour of the bills, making the government's task easier. Though the smaller parties opposed the bills even at the committee stage, the bills were passed without any major discussion in the Parliament. As Dawn commented, the bills were passed without a "murmur" in 20 minutes. The PPP had proposed a few amendments to the bills earlier, but quietly withdrew them when they were submitted in the National Assembly.

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

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."

What is the background?
On 3 January 2020, the PTI government introduced above three bills in the Standing Committee on Defence of Pakistan's National Assembly, which was passed without any serious discussions. In the Committee proceedings, the leading opposition political parties PML-N, PTI and JUI-F did not oppose the bills, while few smaller parties including the Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and National Party (NP) rejected the same. 

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).

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