Supreme Court order places ball in Parliament’s court, asks government to fix lacunas over extension of Army chief
The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday ruled in favor of conditionally extending the tenure of Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa by six months.
In its short order, a three-member bench of the apex court—comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Mian Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah—said it would allow the government to extend the tenure of the Army chief so long as it enacts legislation to codify it under law within six months. This means Gen. Bajwa’s extension is set to expire in May 2020 without the necessary legislation.
In its order, the apex court said that the government, represented by Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan, had failed to establish any legal justification for extending the Army chief’s tenure. CJP Khosa said the court had “thoroughly examined” Article 243(b) of the Constitution, which says the president can appoint the Chief of Army Staff on advice of the prime minister, and noted it made no mention of retirement, extensions or reappointments. It said the government should consider amending Article 243 to address these issues.
However, the order said, the court would show “judicial restraint” and place the matter before Parliament, allowing the extension to take place to prevent any crisis in the armed forces being left without a chief, as Bajwa is set to retire at midnight today (Nov. 28). “We have reviewed several laws including Army Act 1952 and Rule 1954,” the chief judge added.
The court, during its proceedings prior to announcing the verdict, had directed the government to submit a fresh notification that removed all references to the apex court’s proceedings; the duration of the Army chief’s tenure; and any description of the Army chief’s salary and perks. It also directed the government to submit an undertaking that it would enact the relevant legislation to fix lacunas in the Army Rules and Regulations and the Army Act.
Under the questions raised by the court, the government must fix how many extensions a single Army chief is eligible for; whether a retired official can be appointed to the top post; and what the tenure of extension must be.
Reacting to the verdict on Twitter, P.M. Khan hit out in an apparent reference to the opposition. “Today must be a great disappointment to those who expected the country to be destabilized by a clash of institution. That this did not happen must be of special disappointment to our external enemies and mafias within—mafias who have stashed their loot abroad and seek to protect this loot by destabilizing the country,” he said.