–Minister says fresh summary includes word ‘extension’, appointing services chiefs is PM’s prerogative
–Law Minister Farogh Naseem resigns from post, will represent army chief in apex court
ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday amended the Army Regulations (Rules) to include a provision for an “extension in tenure” of the army chief hours after the Supreme Court (SC) suspended the notification for three-year extension in the term of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court (SC) suspended the government’s notification extending Gen Bajwa’s tenure until the top court’s hearing on Wednesday. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa observed that “the summary and approval of army chief’s extension is not correct”. The court issued notices to Defence Ministry, federal government and army chief, who is due to retire on November 29 (Friday).
Addressing a press conference along with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shehzad Akbar and Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed after a meeting of the cabinet, Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood said the SC had observed that the Army Regulations did not have a provision for an “extension” in the army chief’s tenure.
He said that in order to “assist the court and clear matters”, the cabinet amended Rule 255 of the Army Regulations. Besides “suspension of retirement” and “limitation of retirement”, Rule 255 will now also contain “extension in tenure” of the army chief, he said.
According to the minister, the amendment is in line with the prime minister’s intention to grant an extension to Gen Bajwa.
The cabinet gave its consent to alter the summary for the army chief’s reappointment in light of the amendment in the Army Regulations. The old summary will be withdrawn and a new summary will be sent to the prime minister, Mehmood said.
“Before making this decision, it was kept in mind that the region is witnessing extraordinary circumstances,” he said. “The notification was issued with the prime minister’s signature on August 19.”
Shafqat Mahmood said that former army chief General (r) Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani was also given an extension by using Army Regulation 255.
The federal minister said that the prime minister had taken the decision of extension owing to Gen Bajwa’s achievements in securing peace from Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad. He added that the situation in Occupied Kashmir and at the Line of Control (LoC) was extraordinary.
“It was the first time that India attacked Pakistan after the 1971 war,” he said.
Following the apex court’s decision, the premier chaired a zero hour meeting of the federal cabinet, where he was briefed over the matter of army chief’s extension in light of the security situation of the country and the ongoing Kashmir crisis.
The cabinet members asserted that the decision to extend the army chief’s tenure was unanimous and the prime minister, being the chief executive of the country, had the authority to do so. They also said that the civilian government was standing alongside the military.
During the meeting, the prime minister was informed that 19 out of 24 members of the federal cabinet had signed the summary and the remaining five members could not do so because they were out of the country. He was further informed that the lack of objections was considered as a sign of approval.
LAW MINISTER RESIGNS, TO DEFEND GEN BAJWA:
During the deliberations, Federal Law Minister Farogh Naseem tendered resignation from his post and said that he would represent Gen Bajwa in the SC.
Sheikh Rasheed told the presser that Prime Minister Imran has accepted Naseem’s resignation and the former law minister will now present the government’s point of view in court along with Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan.
PM’s aide on accountability Shehzad Akbar separately said that Naseem had resigned as he could not argue the case as the federal law minister. Akbar said that Naseem could once again take up the mantle of the federal minister after the case ended.
The federal cabinet also reviewed a 16-point agenda and the economic situation of the country. It approved the transformation of Postal Life Insurance into a public limited company.
The cabinet members also refused permission for importing goods from India and instead suggested that essential items should be imported from China.