Pak PM Imran Khan seeks powers to extend General Bajwa's tenure

ANI Islamabad, Pakistan Jan 03, 2020, 09.23 AM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

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The Supreme Court had decided that General Bajwa would remain COAS during the six-month period in which the parliament would draft laws regarding the extension and appointment of an army chief.

In order to give a three-year extension to Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Prime Minister Imran Khan hurriedly called an urgent meeting of his Cabinet for approval of proposed amendments to the Constitution and the Army Act.

If the Parliament passes the proposed amendments, PM Imran Khan would have power to extend the tenure of all three defence chiefs for up to three years and at his advice, the president will issue a formal notification.

The cabinet meeting approved the proposed three-year extension in the tenure of the army chief, indicating that General Bajwa would continue to serve as the COAS till 2023.

The apex court last month in a detailed verdict had issued direction to the government to remove all ambiguities and frame a law to the pave the way for giving extension to the Army chief. The Cabinet also decided to introduce an amendment bill in the Parliament on Friday after building a consensus with the opposition on the matter.

According to an amendment, the maximum age limit for an army chief will be 64 years and this will be applied in case of extension in his term, but the regular age limit of COAS will be 60 years.

Now it would be the prime minister's prerogative whether to give an extension to the army chief in the future. The Army Act's amendments will also be applicable to the chairman of joint chiefs and the other two services chiefs.

A government committee comprising Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Amir Dogar, Ali Muhammad Khan and Azam Swati has also been formed to hold talks with the opposition parties regarding the amendment bill.

The court, after grilling the attorney general for three days over the matter, had decided that General Bajwa would remain COAS during the six-month period in which the parliament would draft laws regarding the extension and appointment of an army chief.

"We would like to emphasise that this crucial matter of the tenure of COAS and its extension, which has a somewhat chequered history, is before the Parliament, to fix for all times to come," wrote Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, a member of the three-judge bench which heard the case, in the court's 43-page judgment.

"It is now for the people of Pakistan and their chosen representatives in the parliament to come up with a law that will provide certainty and predictability to the post of COAS, remembering that in strengthening institutions, nations prosper," the court had noted.