New Delhi: The Pakistan Supreme Court Thursday approved a conditional six-month extension to the tenure of army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who was to retire Thursday night.
The order came after the Imran Khan government gave an undertaking that the country’s parliament will pass a law within six months to fix an army chief’s tenure and other terms of service.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had extended Bajwa’s tenure by three years through a notification issued in August. However, the Supreme Court had suspended the decision earlier this week on account of irregularities in the order.
A three-member bench of the court, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, was hearing a petition filed by the Jurist Foundation, which had challenged the extension and urged the court to declare it null and void and illegal.
Pakistani law, under Article 243 (4)(b) of its constitution, only allows the President (“on advice of the Prime Minister”) to take decisions an an Army chief’s appointment, salary and allowances.
“The court has thoroughly examined Article 243(4)(b),” said Chief Justice Khosa. While Article 243(4)(b), the court noted, empowers the President to appoint an army chief, it doesn’t spell out a term.
It was in this light that the court asked the government to finalise legislation laying down an army chief’s tenure and terms of service.
‘Matter now in parliament, government’s hand’
According to a report in the Pakistani daily Dawn Thursday, the court had asked the government to furnish an undertaking about the proposed law as well as an amended notification that doesn’t include any mention of the Supreme Court, duration of the army chief’s tenure and description of his salary and incentives.
As it granted Bajwa a six-month extension, the court said the matter was now in the hands of parliament and the government.
“Considering that the COAS [chief of army staff] is responsible for the command, discipline, training, administration, organisation and preparedness for war of the army and is the chief executive in General Headquarters, we, while exercising judicial restraint, find it appropriate to leave the matter to the Parliament and the federal government to clearly specify the terms and conditions of service of the COAS through an Act of Parliament and to clarify the scope of Article 243 of the Constitution in this regard,” the court said in its short order, according to a report in Pakistani daily The Express Tribune.
The Supreme Court’s suspension of the extension notification issued by the Imran Khan government was seen as a rare move.