ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s senate approved three separate bills on Wednesday related to the appointment, reappointment and tenure of military chiefs, including Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the current chief of army staff.
The bills were tabled by Defense Minister Pervez Khattak, proposing amendments to the Pakistan Army Act 1952, the Pakistan Air Force Act 1953 and the Pakistan Navy Ordinance 1961.
The new legislation gives Pakistan’s president the power to reappoint or extend the existing tenure of military chiefs and the chairman of the joint chief of staff committee. It also ensures that courts cannot challenge such tenure extensions in the future.
“Notwithstanding anything contained in this act or any other law, or any order or judgment of any Court, the appointment, reappointment or extension of the chief of the army staff, or the exercise of discretion by the appointing authority in this regard, shall not be called into question before any Court on any ground whatsoever,” the amendment bill reads.
The three bills were proposed after Pakistan’s supreme court granted parliament six months to give legal cover to army chief Gen. Bajwa’s three-year tenure extension — granted by the prime minister in August — on November 26, after the apex court had suspended Bajwa’s extension citing procedural irregularities and loopholes in relevant laws.
The same bills were approved by Pakistan’s National Assembly on Tuesday when, although the major opposition parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Peoples Party — voted in favor of the bills, members of the Jamat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazal parties, and lawmakers from the tribal districts, walked out of in protest. Prime Minister Imran Khan also made a rare appearance in the house on Tuesday and remained seated during the voting process.
The passage of the bills means Gen. Bajwa’s three-year tenure extension is now a certainty.
“The retirement age and service limits prescribed for a General (officer), 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, reads.
The bill also empowers the president to “reappoint the Chief of the Army Staff for additional tenure of three years,” or to 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.”
Islamabad-based defense analyst, Lt. Gen. (retired) Talat Masood told Arab News, “It shows that the army will continue to play a very significant role in years to come, and I think foreign powers are also cognizant of that. The way the US foreign secretary directly spoke to the chief of army staff rather than the foreign minister (about conflict with Iran), shows there is a lot of recognition and respect for (Pakistan’s) military leadership.”
He added: “The army plays a dominant role in the stability of the country. The military’s opinion does carry a lot of weight and I think this was one of the major (factors that made) opposition parties realize that it would serve no purpose to block or create hurdles in the passing of the amendments.”