Pakistan’s National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, has approved three bills regarding the tenure of the services chiefs — chief of army staff, chief of air staff and chief of naval staff — and the chairman of the joint chief of staff committee. PPP and PML-N offered their support at the cost of public backlash due to their earlier position on the matter.
The Parliament was due to legislate on the matter of extension in service to the chief of army staff after a recent order of the Supreme Court.
#Pakistan’s Parliament has passed three bills to legalise tenure extensions for the army, navy & air force chiefs. Their appointments, reappointments & extensions will now be the prerogative of the prime minister & cannot be challenged in any court of law https://t.co/dsJZAyfMy5
— Mehreen Zahra-Malik (@mehreenzahra) January 7, 2020
The three bills are: the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Bill 2020.
As the session began, Amjad Ali Khan presented the report of the National Assembly’s standing committee on defence regarding the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2020. Later, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak requested the PPP to take back their recommendations regarding amendments to the bills “in light of the regional situation”.
Subsequently, taking the floor, PPP MNA Naveed Qamar took back his party’s recommendations regarding all three bills.
Speaker Asad Qaiser conducted a clause by clause reading of each bill, one after the other, putting them up for a voice vote.
Despite religious party members, including Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami and representatives from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), walking out of the NA declaring the lower house to be “fake”, all three bills were approved by the lower house.
The session was adjourned till 4 pm on Wednesday.
A day earlier, the National Assembly’s standing committee on defence unanimously approved the bills during an in-camera session, which indicates that the bills are likely to smoothly sail through the lower house. “The amendments were passed unanimously by the body. I congratulate the entire country and the opposition parties,” Khattak had said, adding that the bills would be put up for voting in the NA on Tuesday.
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 has been proposed
According to the expedited timeline agreed between the opposition and the government, the amendment bills will also be introduced in the Senate later today before being referred to the upper houses’ defence committee, which is also expected to endorse the bills. The Senate is likely to vote on the bills on Wednesday after which they will finally go for presidential assent.
What is Army Act Amendment Bill 2020?
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,-
Read more: What is Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2020?
(a) in subsection (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 subsection (2), the following new subsection 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 has been proposed.
1: 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.
The order, read out by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, ordered the parliament to introduce legislation for appointment of army chief under Article 243
2: 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”.
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.
The government has also proposed 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.
SC ordered Parliament to legislate
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.
General Bajwa is someone who can bring Pakistan out of the chaotic situation
The court had asked the government to submit an undertaking that Parliament would enact a law on this in six months. “The current appointment of General Qamar Javed Bajwa as COAS shall be subject to the said legislation and shall continue for a period of six months from today, whereafter the new legislation shall determine his tenure and other terms and conditions of service,” read the short order.
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.