Pakistan Parliamentary Panel paves the way for the extension of General Bajwa's tenure

ISLAMABAD: The joint permanent committee (JST) of the Parliament of Pakistan unanimously approved on Friday the amendments to the Army Law, with the aim of extending the tenure of the army chief general for three years.

After the approval of the JST, the defense minister presented the Pakistan Army Bill (Amendment) 2020 at the National Assembly, paving the way for the extension of General Bajwa. Khattak also introduced the Pakistan Navy bill (Amendment) and the Pakistan Air Force Bill (Amendment), separately. The vote on the three bills will take place on Saturday.

The main opposition party, the Pakistan-Nawaz Muslim League (PML-N), has already announced its unconditional support for the army's bill. Even the Popular Party of Pakistan (PPP) has lent its support to the legislation.

According to the army bill, the President, following the advice of the Prime Minister, may reappoint the Chief of the Army General Staff for an additional period of three (03) years, under the terms and conditions determined by the President in the advice of the Prime Minister on national security interests or demands, from time to time.

The retirement age and the service limits prescribed for a general, according to the rules and regulations established in this Law, will not be applicable to the Chief of the General Staff of the Army, during his term of appointment, re-election or extension, subject to a maximum age Sixty-four (64) years old. Throughout that mandate, the Chief of the Army General Staff will continue to serve as a general in the Pakistan Army, the bill said.

In spite of everything contained in this Law or any other law, or any order or trial of any court, the appointment, re-election or extension of the Chief of the Army General Staff, or the exercise of discretion by the appointing authority to this respect, not to be questioned in any court for any reason, ”he added.

Last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan He had granted Gen Bajwa a three-year extension, a decision that was challenged in the Supreme Court. On November 28, 2019, the SC had allowed the federal government to grant a six-month extension to the army chief. The court had also ordered the government to legislate and eliminate loopholes in the re-election/extension of the tenure of an army chief within six months. Except PPP President Bilawal Bhutto Zardari , which then welcomed the verdict, all other opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, stood firm before the court's decision.

The year 2019 saw an increasingly important role for the army in the management of the country's affairs. Perhaps the most visible example was Gen Bajwa's meeting with the country's business community. Last year, the Imran government also named Gen Bajwa as a member of the National Development Council, an important civil decision-making body.

Getting an extension for the army chief was so important for the government that it went into action on the first day of the new year (2020) with Imran's cabinet approving amendments to the Army Law so that the bill could be submitted quickly to Parliament .