The Supreme Court of Pakistan gave a six-month extension in service to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) last month. The court asked the parliament to construct and pass a law to deal with the matter of extension of a serving Army Chief. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government is working committedly to ensure that General Qamar Javed Bajwa gets an extension in service within the given time frame. For that matter, the government has approached the SC while filing a review petition and also efforts are underway to pass a new law with a simple majority.
A bench headed by former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Asif Saeed Khosa, along with Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah heard the petition filed by Riaz Rahi. The order, read out by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, ordered the parliament to introduce legislation for appointment of army chief under Article 243.
I wonder why law minister is giving bad advice to the prime minister. Either he is incompetent or he wants to embarrass the prime minister
The order stated regarding the Article 243: “Article 243 of the Constitution clearly mandates that the Federal Government shall have control and command of the Armed Forces and the supreme command of the Armed Forces shall vest in the President.” The CJP remarked that the court is observing judicial restraint and leaving the matter to the parliament. We have reviewed several laws including Army Act 1952 and Rule 1954, the chief judge said.
Some experts welcomed the verdict but the government maintained that the court should have taken the existing challenges to Pakistan into consideration. “General Bajwa is someone who can bring Pakistan out of the chaotic situation,” said Fawad Ch. in an interview.
Government files review petition
Nearly a month after the Supreme Court ruling on the extension of the COAS, the government filed a review petition on last Thursday, raising 26 questions of law against the judgment while pleading for “preservation of two leading institutions” for a “healthy democracy”.
In the petition, the government also apprised the top court that Gen Qamar’s contributions to national security “will go down in history” and “public at large has warmly welcomed” his reappointment.
“The review petition has been filed because our legal team concluded after thoroughly reviewing all aspects of the verdict that there are several legal gaps in the verdict,” the prime minister’s aide on information and broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan told media persons.
Read more: Legal rationale for the COAS’ service tenure extension?
She said there were “legal and constitutional faults” in the judgment. “And the government has decided to file the review because it wants rectification of the faults with due respect to the judiciary,” she added.
Federal Law Minister, Barrister Farogh Naseem, meanwhile, also confirmed to The Express Tribune that the government has challenged the Supreme Court verdict because it did not consider certain constitutional points.
The petition says, “The enemies of Pakistan were extremely happy when they thought that General Bajwa’s extension or re-appointment had fallen into jeopardy”.
PML-N will present its point of view once the government brings a bill regarding the extension of the army chief to the National Assembly
The government is following another path as well; contacting allies to pass the law. According to reliable sources, the government would try to get the law passed to accord extension to the army chief with a simple majority while the court has been moved to restore its moral authority as there were “glaring mistakes” in the judgment.
“More Embarrassment for Government”
Commenting on the issue, Advocate Khawaja Shahid Rasool said that moving the SC with a review petition was not a good move as the scope of the petition is too limited to get a favorable verdict.
“The prime minister has an option to give an extension every six months. The other option is amending the law with a simple majority which the government already has. So I wonder why the law minister has decided to move a review petition to the same bench with little scope available for a favorable judgment,” he said. Rasool said that the prime minister was ill-advised by his legal team and Law Minister Naseem Farogh should be penalized for causing embarrassment to the prime minister time and again.
Read more: Will PML-N & PPP let PTI amend the law to facilitate COAS extension?
Rasool also wondered the law minister is utterly incompetent to understand basic points of law. “I wonder why the law minister is giving bad advice to the prime minister. Either he is incompetent or he wants to embarrass the prime minister,” he asserted.
“The bench cannot give an entirely different decision in a review petition. Normally, a review petition is filed where minute mistakes are found in the judgment. We know that only a full bench can overturn the judgment in a fresh petition but the judgment can’t be reversed in a review petition,” he added.
With regard to the extension of the army chief, PML-N will make the right decision in the greater national interest
He said that since the government enjoyed a simple majority in the National Assembly it should make a move to amend the law.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has questioned the seriousness of the government with regard to the legislation on the COAS extension, saying it [government] has yet to contact the party on the issue. The party, however, says it will take the “right decision in the national interest”.
“With regard to the extension of the army chief, PML-N will make the right decision in the greater national interest,” PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said and warned the ruling PTI to stop giving the impression that the national institutions belonged to it.
Read more: Not PTM but few individuals working against the state: COAS
An aide to former premier Nawaz Sharif Senator Pervaiz Rashid said: “PML-N will present its point of view once the government brings a bill regarding the extension of the army chief to the National Assembly.”
Similarly, a senior leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and former chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has said that the PPP is considering the issue of giving legal cover to a three-year extension of Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, but added that the party had reservations over Prime Minister Imran Khan.
It is yet to be seen how the government moves forward while addressing the grievances of the opposition.