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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Last Chance for Gen Bajwa: Government Failing to Defend its Actions in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court hearing on General Bajwa’s extension case has been adjourned until 1pm. Today’s hearing is the government’s last opportunity to satisfy the court as General Bajwa is due to retire by midnight.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, adjourned the hearing in the case related to the extension of incumbent Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa until 1 pm.

The three-member bench is expected to serve a short order later in the day. Before the resumption of the hearing, the government has been instructed to provide an undertaking that the parliament will pass legislation within a period of six months.

The government has also been directed to submit an amended notification, and the amended notification will exclude the mention of the Supreme Court, the duration of the Chief of Army Staff’s tenure, and the description of the salary and incentives awarded to the Army Chief.

Legislation within Six Months

General Qamar Javed Bajwa is due to retire at midnight, and the hearing scheduled for today presents the Imran Khan-led government with the last opportunity to satisfy the three-member SC bench, comprising of Chief Justice of Pakistan, Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Mian Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah.

Before the hearing was adjourned, the Chief Justice informed Farogh Naseem that the government must submit a written statement ensuring that the parliament will pass legislation on the matter within a period of six months.

The CJP warned, “If the legislation is not passed within six months, the appointment will be illegal.” The CJP also observed that there was a “vagueness in the Army Act.”

Read more: Should SC have intervened in General Bajwa’s extension matter?

Justice Shah said, “The Parliament must remove this vagueness as there is no better platform than the parliament to fix the system.” Justice Miankhel said that it must be clarified if the tenure would be extended in the future, or if there will be a reappointment.

CJP Khosa also directed to ensure that the court’s mention is eliminated from the summary, and the summary must not mention the duration of the extension. He said, ‘The details related to salary and incentives should be removed from the summary. We want it to be a part of the official record.”

“Put your House in Order”

Addressing the Attorney General of Pakistan, Anwar Mansoor Khan, the CJP said, “Put your house in order.”

At the beginning of the hearing, around 9:30 am the three-member bench directed AG Khan to provide the court the extension notifications issued for former Chiefs of Army Staff Gen (R) Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, and General Raheel Sharif’s retirement.

The Chief Justice said, “Under which section was Gen (R) Kayani granted an extension? We want to examine the pension and perks he received after retirement.” Speaking on the retirement of army generals, CJP Khosa said, “If an army general can never retire, then under which rule did Raheel Sharif take his retirement?”

The Attorney General said that he wants to aid the court in the matter. Justice Khosa said that the court will examine the rules under which Gen (R) Kayani was given an extension, and the hearing was adjourned for 15 minutes.

Read more: Gen Bajwa Extension Case: Suo Motu or Petition?

The Pakistan Bar Association has restored the license of Farogh Naseem, who tendered a resignation from his position as Law Minister to represent Army Chief General Bajwa. During yesterday’s hearing, the CJP informed him that the court does not want to waste its time or allow the institution of Pakistan Army to suffer. He directed him to settle the issue of his license or bring an associate in order to represent the COAS.

“Why do you use our Name?”

After the hearing resumed, the Attorney General provided the court with the summary of the draft notification for General Bajwa’s extension, prepared by the government yesterday.

It is important to note that after yesterday’s hearing, an emergency meeting was convened at the Prime Minister House to devise the government’s strategy for today’s hearing. General Bajwa, alongside several ministers, attended the meeting presided over by the Prime Minister.

After examining the summary, the CJP reprimanded the Attorney General for mentioning the Supreme Court proceedings in the draft notification. He said, “Carry your own burden, why do you use our name? Do your own work, why are you dragging us into it?”

He instructed the Attorney General to eliminate any reference of the court in the summary, saying, “The court’s name has been added to the summary so we are unable to point out the errors.”

Raising questions over the appointment of the Chief of Army Staff, the CJP noted that General Bajwa already occupied the position. He said, “How can an appointment be approved on a position that is already occupied?”

The Chief Justice said, “Eliminate the part about the court’s advice from the notification. If the President requires our advice, that is another matter.”

Law Never Examined for Extensions

The Chief Justice lamented that all these years, no government examined the law while granting extensions to Army Chiefs.

Justice Shah observed that the law does not specify that the duration of the extension is three years. The Chief Justice observed that the summary had specified that the duration of Army Chief’s tenure will be three years, and remarked that the Article 243 does not specify a three-year duration.

Read more: Supreme Court Deliberates over Legal Basis of Army Chief’s Reappointment & Extension

He said, “If they find a remarkable general tomorrow, will he be granted an extension for 30 years?” The CJP stressed the need for a clear system and remarked that the three-year appointment will set a precedent.

He said, “There is no check on the activities undertaken in the cantonment or under which law the action has been taken. Now, a constitutional institution is deliberating this matter.”

The CJP said that the process of appointment on a constitutional post must be clear and unambiguous and asked the Attorney General how long the government will take to draft laws on the matter. The Attorney General responded that the government will need three months, and a separate law will be drafted with regards to the Army Chief.