Of tensions and extensions
The Supreme Court’s direction to the government to submit a written assurance within two weeks that it has no intention of sacking the COAS and the DG ISI has come at a time when there have been signs of thaw in the frosty ties between the civilian and military leadership.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was hearing on Friday a petition seeking to block any attempt by the government to remove the army and ISI Chiefs. Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq rubbished the claim and drew the court’s attention to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani rejecting the perception in his recent statement. The AG also objected to the maintainability of the petition, which he believed, was filed on the basis of conjectures but it was overruled with the CJ telling him: “That’s why we have issued you notice. The country needs improvement in the state of affairs”.
The order issued by the bench is reminiscent of a similar assurance sought by the apex court in October 2010 following media reports that the government was planning to reverse the March 16, 2009 notification of reinstating the superior court judges dismissed by Musharraf. And the law ministry had to comply with the direction despite the PM’s assurance in the National Assembly that he had no intention of withdrawing the executive order.
As for the aforesaid case, the petitioner has raised a point that after giving extensions to the COAS and ISI chief, the government cannot remove them before time. There can be a counter-argument to this misplaced logic: If the government is empowered to extend the service of a civil or military officer, how can it be restrained from curtailing the extended tenures.
But having said that, the government cannot initiate any such move especially when the tension between the civilian and military arms of the state, originating with Memogate, seems to have abated to some extent. All that is needed is to discourage such petitioners who’re bent upon creating confusion when the country is already faced with multifaceted crises.