A day after they were approved by the National Assembly, Pakistan’s Senate on Wednesday voted to approve three bills designed to regulate the tenures of the 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.
Seemingly summoned on a single-point agenda, the Senate session lasted just 20 minutes and commenced with a vote on the bills—immediately after which it was adjourned. Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani read out the bills clause-by-clause and the senators’ votes were recorded via a verbal call of ‘Aye’ or ‘Nay.’
The major political parties of the country all voted in favor of the bills. However, similar to the National Assembly, there was some minor protest from smaller parties, including the National Party, the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and the Jamaat-e-Islami.
The Senate chairman then forwarded the three bills to the Senate Standing Committee, which held an emergency meeting within minutes after adjournment of the Senate sitting and passed them unanimously. After passage of the bills by the Senate, all that remains is for President Arif Alvi to sign off on them and formalize them into law.
Prior to the passage of the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2020; the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Bill, 2020; and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, the Pakistan Peoples Party had submitted a few proposed changes, but they withdrew those after the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf urged them to do so in “view of the regional situation.”
Under the amendments approved, the prime minister would have the prerogative to appoint, reappoint or extend the tenures of the services chiefs and 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.
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.