Army act approved by Pakistan National Assembly

Special Army act approved by Pakistan National Assembly
General Qamar Javed Bajwa was appointed to lead the Pakistani military in 2016, taking over from the popular General Raheel Sharif. (AFP)
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Updated 08 January 2020

Army act approved by Pakistan National Assembly

Army act approved by Pakistan National Assembly
  • Passage will pave way for army chief’s contested tenure extension
  • Three bills will now be tabled in the Senate for discussion and vote

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Assembly approved three separate bills regarding the appointment, reappointment and tenure of chiefs of the armed forces on Tuesday.

The three amendment bills — Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act 2020, Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Act 2020, and Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Act 2020 — will now be tabled in the Senate. The upper house is expected to pass the bills on Wednesday, before going to the president for formal assent.

 The major opposition parties in the lower house — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — voted in favor of the bills, while members of Jamat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal, and lawmakers from the tribal districts, walked out of the house in protest.

Prime Minister Imran Khan also made a rare appearance in the assembly, and remained seated during the voting process.

The passage of the army amendment will pave the way for a three-year tenure extension for Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The PPP withdrew amendments from the bills following a request by Defense Minister Pervez Khattak. PPP legislator Naveed Qamar said that his party was withdrawing them “keeping in mind the regional situation and to send a unified message.” When National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser put the bills, one by one, to each vote, PPP and PML-N members supported them, while a dozen opposition legislators left.

 “The retirement age and service limits prescribed for a General, under the rules and regulations made under this act, shall not be applicable to the Chief of the Army Staff, during his tenure of appointment, reappointment, or extension, subject to a maximum age of sixty four (64) years,” the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2020 states.

 The bill also empowers the president to “reappoint the Chief of the Army Staff for additional tenure of three years,” or extend his tenure for another three years on the advice of the prime minister, “in the national security interest or exigencies, from time to time.”

The federal Cabinet last Wednesday approved amendments to the acts in a hurriedly convened meeting to plug legal gaps in the appointment and reappointment of services chiefs, as pointed out by the Supreme Court in a verdict in November last year.

Khan extended Bajwa’s tenure through a notification in August 2019, but the Supreme Court suspended it on Nov. 26, citing procedural irregularities and loopholes in the relevant laws.

 The court later announced that Bajwa would remain the army chief for another six months, during which parliament would legislate on the extension/reappointment of tenure for senior personnel.