Government of Pakistan presents bill to extend tenure of army chief

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government presented legislation on Friday to extend the mandate of the army chief in line with an order from the Supreme Court that he must justify his desire to see the superior commander remain at work for an additional three years.

The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan approved an extension for General Qamar Javed Bajwa in August, citing a worsening of the national security situation in the region for his rivalry with India.

But in a surprise ruling, the Supreme Court overturned the extension in November, ordering the government and the army to produce legal provisions and arguments about the reasoning behind the measure, facing the judiciary against the government and the powerful military.

Pakistan's army has ruled the country for approximately half of its 72-year history and establishes defense and security policies and has also recently played a role in economic policy formulation.

The army chief usually serves a three-year term.

On Friday, the first day of a new parliamentary session, the government presented a lower house bill to provide legal coverage for the Bajwa extension after winning the support of opposition parties, government officials said.

We are willing to support the legislation if the government follows parliamentary procedures, said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the leader of a main opposition party.

Legalization is expected to be approved next week, clearing the way for Bajwa in office until 2022.

During Bajwa's term, the opposition accused the military of meddling in elections and politics to support Khan, while limiting civil liberties and silencing the media.

The army denies interfering in politics.