Pakistan court allows 6-month extension to army chief

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI, Pakistan

Pakistan’s top court on Thursday allowed the government to grant a six-month extension to the country’s army chief, wrapping up the marathon hearing of a case that gripped the nation, courts records and local media reported.

In a short order, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa delivered the judgment, ordering the government to pass legislation in order to clarify laws pertaining to extension or reappointment of an army chief, in the six months.

Khosa warned that if the legislation was not done within the next six months, the appointment of the army chief will become “illegal”.

The court observed that there was no provision either in the Constitution or the Army Act that allows extension or reappointment of the army chief.

A panicked government that issued notifications — one after another — to satisfy the top court in the past three days, promised to make the required legislation within next six months, local broadcaster Geo News reported citing court order.

The apex court also directed the parliament to make proper legislation about the army chief’s term and incentives within the stipulated time period of six months.

Earlier this week, the apex court had suspended a notification issued by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Aug. 19 to extend the army chief’s term for another three years.

Questions raised

The judges raised several questions on the government’s conduct and intentions behind extension of Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa’s extension, a situation hard to imagine even a week ago because of the army’s longstanding domination in the country’s political and security scenario.

The court declared that only the president and not the premier could extend the term of army chief after the Cabinet’s approval.

In this case, the court observed, the president approved the notification for extension before Cabinet’s approval, which apparently was not in line with the Constitution.

The court also rejected the government’s reasoning that Bajwa’s term was extended due to geo-strategic and regional security issues, saying if this was the case, then every army officer would seek the extension.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, for his part, termed the court’s judgment a “disappointment to external enemies and mafias”.

“Today must be a great disappointment to those who expected the country to be destabilised by a clash of institutions,” Khan said in a Twitter post.

Bajwa is set to retire on Thursday midnight. His extension gets effective from Thursday.

Previously, the terms of several army chiefs, have been extended, but this is the first time the apex court suspended the notification and even issued notice to the army chief.
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