Government-Opposition Rift: Consultations on Legislation on Army Chief’s Extension

The government is undertaking consultations and discussions with the opposition with regards to the legislation on Army Chief General Bajwa's extension and reappointment. However, the rift between the opposition and government continues to widen, which has made it challenging for any legislation to be passed in the parliament.

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Prime Minister Imran Khan, on Wednesday, initiated the process of consultation on the constitutional amendments related to the extension in the tenure of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

These consultations have begun in a tense environment of government-opposition tensions, which continue to widen, delaying the process of the required legislation.

On November 28, the Supreme Court allowed a six-month extension in the tenure of Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and during this six month period, the government was directed to make constitutional amendments with regards to the reappointment/extension of the Army Chief.

Consultations & Meetings

Reports reveal that Prime Minister Imran Khan sat down with senior leaders and ministers of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf during the first phase of consultation. He held meetings with Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Shibli Faraz Leader of the House in Senate, Asad Qaiser National Assembly Speaker, Azam Swati Parliamentary Affairs Minister, and Asad Umar, Minister for Planning and Development.

Speaking to the media, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser revealed that the Premier had called a meeting to discuss the legislative process in the parliament, and the issue of the Army Chief’s extension. During this meeting, the Prime Minister was informed that talks are ongoing with the opposition to ensure that pending bills are passed smoothly.

Read more: Nation wants to know why Imran Khan hid 23 bank accounts from ECP

Qaiser said that the bill regarding constitutional amendments in the reappointment and extension of the Army Chief is to be tabled. He said, “We have assured the Prime Minister that we will discover a way that ensures that there is no deadlock between the opposition and treasury benches in the National Assembly and Senate.”

The NA Speaker revealed that backdoor meetings between opposition leaders and representatives of the government are taking place to reach an agreement on the new and pending legislation. He said, “A meeting was held between the opposition and the government on the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner, during which we also had informal discussions on the new and pending legislation.”

The Speaker said that the government will strive to ensure that all forthcoming bills are initially dispatched to the legislative committee of the parliament, which boosts the representation of all parties in the National Assembly and Senate. These bills will be deliberated and discussed, in order to eliminate the reservations of the opposition before introducing the bills in the parliament.

Asad Qaiser said, “We will also strive to make sure that no issue is aggravated to such an extent that the concerned parties are compelled to approach the court. We are determined to settle all issues within the parliament.”

Lack of Harmony

Sources reveal that there is a growing backlog of over 160 bills in the parliament, but legislations are not being passed due to the growing lack of harmony and cooperation between the government and the opposition.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and its allies form a majority in the National Assembly, while the Senate is dominated by opposition parties. As per the constitution, any bill that is passed within the lower house must also be passed by the upper house of the parliament.

The opposition and certain opinion makers are accusing the government of not promoting harmony with the opposition, while many analysts accuse opposition leaders of stalling important legislations in a bid to coerce the government into giving concessions to their incarcerated leaders, accused of corruption.

Read more: Legal rationale for the COAS’ service tenure extension?

In the last few weeks, the government has attempted to make legislation through presidential ordinances, and President Dr. Arif Alvi passed eight such ordinances. However, after the criticism of the opposition, all these ordinances were withdrawn by the government. The government has agreed to table the bills in the National Assembly, as per the rules and regulations.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Asif, on Monday, accused the government of organizing a demonstration outside the London resident of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Addressing the floor of the National Assembly, Khawaja Asif said that the opposition will not cooperate with government and will not allow the legislation process to run smoothly.

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