Top judge suggests it will allow Army chief to continue in his role if government amends relevant laws to overcome lacunas
The third day of the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s hearings into the extension of the tenure of Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa appeared to suggest a stopgap solution would be approved that would allow the Army chief to continue in his role—on the condition that the government speedily fix deficiencies in laws pertaining to extensions.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa and including Justice Mian Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, said it would announce a verdict today before Gen. Bajwa is set to retire at midnight tonight.
During the hearing, Justice Shah asked Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan to propose “how laws regarding the Army should be fixed.” The CJP also said Parliament should pass legislation to address the court’s concerns within six months—a concession to the government after he initially suggested it should be done within three months. “If no legislation is forthcoming within six months, the appointment [of Gen. Bajwa] will become illegal,” he added.
If the government seeks to amend the Constitution regarding an Army chief’s extension, it would need a two-thirds majority in Parliament, which could prove troublesome as it would require the support of an increasingly combative opposition.
Earlier, the court reviewed the extension notifications issued for former Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the retirement of Gen. Raheel Sharif. “Under what section was Gen. Kayani granted an extension?” the CJP asked the AG, adding the court would like to review the pension and perks he has been provided. Referring to a statement by the AG from Wednesday in which the government’s counsel had claimed Army generals “never retire,” Khosa also questioned how Gen. Sharif could then have been superannuated. “You said that generals never retire; if they don’t retire, then they are not entitled to pension,” he said.
Reviewing a fresh notification prepared by the government after a huddle with the Army chief last night, the CJP criticized the inclusion of the Supreme Court’s proceedings in it. “Do your own work, why do you drag us in the middle?” he told Attorney General Mansoor, and directed all such references to be removed.
Justice Shah, meanwhile, said there is still confusion over why the duration of an Army chief’s tenure is three years. “There is no check on the activities that are going on in Cantonment or under which law an action is being taken,” the CJP echoed, adding the process of appointment on all constitutional posts should be explicit and clear.
The court also took the AG to task over social media campaigns waged primarily by PTI supporters declaring the court as “agents of India” over its questioning of the Army Act. The AG, in response, claimed Indian media “had taken advantage” of Tuesday’s arguments. “It is our right to ask questions,” the CJP said.
The hearing was then adjourned until the afternoon, during which it is expected the court will issue a short order.