Ruling on Pakistan army chief’s tenure likely today

Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. (File/AFP)
Updated 28 November 2019

Ruling on Pakistan army chief’s tenure likely today

  • Chief justice adjourns case, criticizes govt on ‘clerical error’
  • Bajwa was due to retire at midnight on Thursday

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Supreme Court on Wednesday postponed the hearing for a day to rule on a proposed extension to army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa’s tenure for another three years.

Bajwa was due to retire at midnight on Thursday after completing his initial three-year term but Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan granted him a second period in the post because of the “regional security environment.”

During the daylong hearing, Pakistani Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan presented, on behalf of the government, the arguments in favor of the move but failed to convince the apex court about legal provisions adopted to grant the extension.

Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, presiding over the case brought on the request of the petitioner, Advocate Riaz Hanif, adjourned proceedings until Thursday for the resolution of legal issues. “There is still time. The government should look into the issue by tomorrow, otherwise we are bound to fulfill our duty under the constitution,” he said.

On Tuesday, the court had suspended the government’s notification of Aug. 19, extending the general’s term for another three years, citing procedural flaws, and instructed the Ministry of Defense, the federal government, and the army chief to file their respective responses on Wednesday.

Shortly after the court hearing, Prime Minister Khan convened a special session of the Cabinet to discuss the issue. A new summary for the extension of Bajwa’s tenure was approved and duly endorsed by Khan and President Arif Alvi.

The chief justice told the court that the premier had requested the reappointment of Bajwa, but the president had issued a notification for an extension of the general’s tenure. “They (the Law Ministry) never bothered to check what was written and what they were sending (to the president for approval),” Khosa said.

On the handling of the matter, he added: “They (the government) should not do something like this with a high-ranking officer.”

However, the attorney-general tried to play down the gaffe, referring to it as a “clerical error.” He said that the process was “nothing new” adding that extensions had been granted to different army chiefs in the past and were “notified in the same manner.”

Barrister Farogh Naseem, who on Tuesday resigned as Pakistani minister of law and justice, was present in the packed courtroom to represent the army chief and was expected to give his arguments before the court on Thursday.

The attorney general told the hearing that “until command is handed over to another general, the army chief cannot be considered retired.”


3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

Updated 28 February 2020

3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

  • The force would be a significant new player in the Sahel where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year
  • The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: African leaders have decided to work on deploying 3,000 troops to West Africa’s troubled Sahel region as extremist attacks surge, an African Union official said Thursday.
The force would be a significant new player in the sprawling, arid region south of the Sahara Desert where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year — at times working together in an unprecedented move.
The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems. That has sparked pressure from worried security allies including France and regional countries as well as a rare bipartisan outcry among lawmakers in Washington.
Smail Chergui, the African Union commissioner for peace and security, relayed the new troop decision that was taken at the recent AU summit during a meeting Thursday with visiting European Union officials.
The AU continental body is expected to work with the West African regional counterterror force G5 Sahel as well as the West African regional body ECOWAS, which has formed peacekeeping units in the past, Chergui said.
ECOWAS in September announced what Chergui called a “very bold” plan to counter extremism in the region, including mobilizing up to $1 billion through 2024.
“As you see and recognize yourself, the threat is expanding and becoming more complex,” Chergui said. “Terrorists are now even bringing a new modus operandi from Afghanistan and Al-Shabab” in Somalia.
It was not immediately clear what the next steps would be in forming the AU force for the Sahel, which has become the most active region in Africa for extremist attacks.
The force would join France’s largest overseas military operation, the 5,100-strong Barkhane, and the 15,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali, one of the hardest-hit countries in the attacks along with Burkina Faso and Niger.