Three bills pass through with little opposition in Lower House; will now proceed to Senate before being sent to president
Pakistan’s Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday passed three bills to formalize the process governing the tenure of officials holding the posts of the Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
The three bills—the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Bill 2020—were passed near-unanimously with the opposition and the government coming together in a rare show of unity to ensure their approval. Prime Minister Imran Khan, often a no-show in Parliament despite criticizing similar absences by Nawaz Sharif when he was in opposition, also made an all-too-rare appearance in the National Assembly to vote on the legislation.
The Pakistan Peoples Party, which had recommended certain changes to the bills during their examination by the standing committee on defense, withdrew its objections “in light of the regional situation.”
“In view of the country’s prevailing circumstances and the new situation in the region, and after consulting with the rest of the opposition… to send a unified message, we [PPP] have decided not to press these amendments,” said PPP lawmaker Naveed Qamar as he withdrew his party’s concerns.
The bills were then read out clause-by-clause by Speaker Asad Qaiser before being put up for a voice vote.
Apart from lawmakers of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUIF), the Jamaat-e-Islami and those from the country’s tribal areas, all parties supported the measures. The dissenters staged a walkout of the National Assembly in protest.
On Monday, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Defense had unanimously approved the bills during an in-camera session.
After passage in the Lower House, they bills will now be placed before the Senate, where they will be referred to the Upper House’s Defense Committee. Based on the united front shown today, it is likely they will face no significant opposition there either. The Senate would reportedly vote on the bills on Wednesday—where an approval again seems all but guaranteed—after which they will be sent to President Arif Alvi for final approval.
The legislation to remove lacunae over the tenure of the services chiefs became necessary after the Supreme Court last year directed the government to remove legal deficiencies to the extension/reappointment process or replace Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa within six months.
Under the amendments approved today, the prime minister would have the prerogative to appoint, reappoint or extend the tenures of the services chiefs the CJCSC. These appointments are barred from being challenged in any court of law. Additionally, all officers would reach superannuation at 60 years of age, but could continue service until 64 if they are granted an extension in tenure.