–Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2020, empowers president to extend army chief’s tenure by three years on PM’s advice
–Legislation states no person can challenge army chief’s extension in any court of law
–PML-N says Nawaz has fully endorsed legislation, PPP’s Bilawal says govt should follow legal procedure before tabling bill
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government will on Friday present the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2020, in the National Assembly (NA) as the major opposition parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), took separate stances on the issue with the former extending its “unconditional” support to the legislation and the latter asking the government to follow “proper procedure” before tabling the document.
In November last year, the Supreme Court (SC), in a historic judgement, directed the government to “remove ambiguity” in rules on the issue of extension in an army chief’s tenure.
The bill to be presented in the Lower House on Friday will seek to amend the laws governing Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy.
According to the draft bill, the government has included a new section 8A in the Pakistan Army Act, 1952 (XXXIX of 1952) by amending Section 8.
In the Pakistan Army Act, 1952 (XXXIX of 1952), hereinafter referred to as the said Act, in section 8,- (a) in sub-section (2), after the words “Pakistan Army”, comma and the Words ” duly appointed by the President, in accordance with Article 243 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan,
(b) after sub-section (2), the following new sub-section, shall be inserted, namely:-
“(2A)” Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee” means an officer who has been appointed as the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, by the President, in accordance with Article 243 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, read with section 8D;”.
A new chapter will be inserted called Chapter IA in which appointment of the Chief of the Army Staff and the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee have been proposed.
8A deals with the Appointment of the Chief of the Army Staff which states that “the President shall, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint a general as the Chief of the Army Staff, for a tenure of three (03) years. The terms and conditions of the Chief of the Army Staff shall be determined by the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister.
8B deals with Reappointment or extension in tenure of Chief of the Army Staff which states that “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or any other law for the time being in force, the President, on the advice of the PM, may reappoint the Chief of the Army Staff for additional tenure of three (03) years, or extend the tenure(s) of the Chief of the Army Staff up to three (03) years, on such terms and conditions, as may be determined by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister, in the national security interest or exigencies, from time to time”.
Moreover, no one can challenge the appointment, reappointment or extension of the Chief of the Army Staff in any court of law.
Under 8B, a Section 2 has also been included which states that “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 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. Throughout such tenure, the Chief of the Army Staff shall continue to serve as a General in the Pakistan Army.”
The President may, on the advice of the PM, appoint a Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, from amongst Generals in the Pakistan Army, Admirals in the Pakistan Navy, or Air Chief Marshals in the Pakistan Air Force, for a tenure of three (03) years.
Government has also proposed in amending 176A in which after the word “Army”, the words and commas “including, appointment, reappointment., extension or retirement of the Chief of the Army Staff and/or the Chairman. Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee”, shall be added.
GOVT REACHES OUT TO OPP:
Earlier in the day, PTI leaders separately met central leaders of the PML-N, PPP and other opposition parties in a bid to achieve the number required to amend the law through the NA and ratify it from Senate.
A delegation of PTI lawmakers comprising Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Leader of the House for the Senate Shibli Faraz and Senator Azam Swati called on PML-N leaders on Thursday morning, where the latter assured their support for the proposed amendments.
The PML-N delegation comprised Khawaja Asif, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Rana Tanvir, among others.
PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan, while talking to media, said that the party’s supremo Nawaz Sharif has given the nod to support the amendments through consensus.
In the past few years, the PML-N has been at loggerheads with the country’s security establishment. The former prime minister even accused a senior military official of rigging last year’s elections in an attempt to facilitate Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party.
The PML-N used to believe that the establishment was behind its downfall and Nawaz’s disqualification and conviction in corruption cases.
After meeting the PML-N leaders, another PTI delegation comprising Pervez Khattak, Ali Muhammad Khan and Qasim Suri met the PPP leadership, including the party’s Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.
The PPP leaders at the meeting that took place at Zardari House included Raja Pervez Ashraf, Nayyar Bukhari, Sherry Rehman, Raza Rabbani, Shazia Marri and Naveed Qamar.
According to sources, Bilawal urged the government delegation to follow the parliamentary rules and regulations regarding amendments in the Army Act.
Nayyar Bukhari later told a TV channel that according to the legal procedure, the government has to first circulate the draft bill through the NA Secretariat among the opposition parties before presenting it in the NA.
“We have told the government delegation to first follow the procedure and then we will take a formal look at the bill. We will discuss the contents of the bill with the government clause-wise and offer our support accordingly,” he said.
Later in the evening, Federal Minister for Law Farogh Naseem gave a briefing on the proposed amendments to a parliamentary committee of the opposition parties.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, Naseem said that he had explained all the proposed amendments in detail to the opposition leaders and they were satisfied with the legislation.
However, PML-N leader Khawaja Asif told reporters that the law minister had failed to satisfy their queries.
“The Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy Acts will also be amended,” he said.
‘NATIONAL ISSUES SHOULD NOT BE POLITICISED’:
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan, while addressing a press conference, said matters of national interest should not be politicised.
She said that she was hopeful that the parliament would play its legal and constitutional role to “once and for all” settle an issue currently being discussed in the parliament. While the premier’s aide did not specify the issue being discussed, she appeared to be referring to legislation on the extension of COAS Bajwa’s tenure.
“We all have a responsibility to Pakistan’s institutions, which are the guarantors of national wellbeing,” she said.
Awan said that the parliament had been approached for a matter which falls under the executive domain of the prime minister.
“God willing, with a consensus, we will settle this important issue and parliament will play a key role,” she said.
Apparently comparing the issue of extension in General Bajwa’s tenure to the appointment of India’s army chief as the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Awan said in the “neighbouring country” (India) the defence minister had used the authority of the state’s executive branch for the appointment of the army chief as the CDS. “There (in India) you did not see any discussion or debate in the media and neither was this type of commotion created,” she added
“Matters of national interest, connected to our national identity, should be devoid of politics and the tradition of politicising them in Pakistan should end,” the premier’s special aide said.
She said the matter being discussed in the parliament concerned Pakistani institutions and not a specific political party or personality.