New Delhi: Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa Tuesday suspended the Pakistan government’s August notification that gave a three-year extension to Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, who is due to retire on 29 November.
The decision of the Supreme Court came just two days ahead of its expected verdict against former Army chief and dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf in a treason case.
A three-member bench, comprising the chief justice, Justice Mazhar Alam and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, was hearing a petition filed by the Jurist Foundation, which had challenged the extension urging the court to declare it null and void and illegal.
The extension stands suspended until the court’s hearing Wednesday.
The court issued notices to the defence ministry, the federal government, Gen Bajwa and adjourned the hearing till tomorrow, a rare development in Pakistan, which has a history of dictators and where the military controls everything.
“Only the President of Pakistan can extend the tenure of the Army chief,” Justice Khosa said during the hearing, in reference to General Bajwa’s extension being notified by the Prime Minister’s Office in August, The Newsweek Pakistan reported.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had, on 19 August, approved an extension in Gen Bajwa’s tenure for another three years.
The Dawn reported that Justice Khosa said only 11 out of 25 cabinet members had approved the extension.
“Fourteen members of the cabinet did not give any opinion due to non-availability,” Justice Khosa said. “Did the government take their silence as agreement?”
“Those who did not say ‘yes’ had not taken part in voting,” the attorney general informed the top court.
To this, the judge noted: “Does the cabinet not want to give members time to think? The 14 members of the cabinet still have not said ‘yes’ to army chief’s extension.”
Increasing tussle between Pakistan’s judiciary & govt
The top judge took up the petition in public interest under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan. The case was converted into a suo motu notice.
The development came in the backdrop of the increased tussle between the judiciary and Imran Khan government.
The chief justice had last week chided PM Khan on his recent provocative comments against the courts, telling him to “be careful” with his statements and not to “taunt” them, amid differences between the government and the judiciary over allowing jailed former premier Nawaz Sharif to go abroad for medical treatment.
“Do you not remember that we convicted a prime minister (Nawaz Sharif) and disqualified another prime minister (Yousuf Raza Gilani)?” he was quoted as saying by Dawn News.
The chief justice also noted that a case concerning former army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf is going to be decided soon. A special Pakistani court will announce its verdict in the high treason case against Musharraf.
Rattled by his comment, the Imran Khan government filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court Monday, requesting it to set aside a special court’s decision to reserve its judgement in the case.