Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

12 January 2020, Monday

Extending General Bajwa's tenure: A former PML-N minister suggests pressure on the party leadership 

"If there was any pressure to vote for the Army Act, it was on our leadership": Khurram Dastgir

PR Daily Brief | D. Suba Chandran

12 January 2020, Sunday

What happened?
Khurram Dastgir Khan, a PML-N leader and a member of the Parliament, in a discussion elsewhere, agreed to the pressure to vote on extending Gen Bajwa's tenure. He was quoted saying: "If there was any pressure to vote for the Army Act, it was on our leadership, not on the parliamentarians like me." He also continued: "If it is said that there was no discussion on this Act by parliamentarians, it is not true. The PML-N and PPP parliamentarians held detailed deliberations on it, and eventually decided to vote for it."

Dastgir Khan has been a member of the Parliament since 2008. He was elected in successive elections held during 2008, 2013 and 2018. He also served as the Minister of Defence and later the Minister of Foreign Affairs during the previous PML-N government.

Elsewhere in London, Shahbaz Sharif, leader of the PML-N was quoted saying: "It's a fact that the PTI government had already issued extension notification of General Bajwa and the Supreme Court had asked Parliament to make necessary legislation with a specific time frame. There was no hue and cry at that time. There are precedents where extension was given without legislation. Pervez Musharraf and other dictators gave themselves extension, but this time Parliament gave the extension and did the required legislation." (The News, 12 January 2020)

What is the background?
During the first week of January, the Parliament passed three bills - the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Bill 2020 aimed at extending the tenures of three services Chiefs and also the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. These bills provide 64 years as the maximum age for the retirement for three services chiefs and also the CJCSC.

The smaller parties such as the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and National Party (NP) did not vote for the bills. However, the primary opposition parties – the PML-N and the PPP, did not discuss much in the Parliament and voted in favour of the bills. Dawn, in one of its reports, said that these three bills were passed in 20 minutes, without a "murmur." 

The statement by Dastgir Khan suggests that there was pressure on the leadership of the PPP and PML-N to accept or propose amendments or reject the bills. However, the Parliamentarians across the parties, except the smaller ones, voted in favour of the bills. This would suggest that the party leadership yielded to the pressure from the Establishment, and asked their members to go along with the bills.

The statement from Shahbaz suggests the lame excuse from the party leadership. The Supreme Court did not ask the Parliament to rubber-stamp the decision taken by the PTI government on extending the tenure, as Sharif's statement would hint.

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