Monitoring Desk

ISLAMABAD: The government has issued a new notification in connection with the extension in tenure of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa after Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa suspended the first one earlier on Tuesday.
“The federal cabinet has taken back the first notification of extension in the army chief’s tenure issued with the prime minister’s signatures on August 19,” Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood, flanked by Special Assistant to the PM on Accountability Shehzad Akbar and Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid, said in a news conference in Islamabad.
Summary of the new notification was presented to the cabinet, which after due diligence, approved it, he said, adding that the summary had been sent to President Arif Alvi for the final approval.
The press conference was called following a marathon meeting of the federal cabinet held to deliberate upon the issue at the PM Office.
Shafqat said the cabinet made amendments in rules of Article 255 of Pakistan Army Act 1952. “Word extension in tenure has been added,” he added.
He said the prime minister had the prerogative to recommend appointment of services chiefs to the president under Article 243 of the Constitution.
The education minister said the decision was taken owing to strained relations with India. “The whole world knows about the prevailing tension at the Line of Control (LoC) and extraordinary situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.
The development came after the chief justice took up a withdrawal application of a petition challenging the army chief’s tenure extension earlier in the day. Justice Khosa rejected the application and took up the petition under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution under public interest.
The case was converted into a suo moto.
The apex court also issued notices to the defence ministry, the federal government and Gen Qamar, who is due to retire on November 29. The hearing was adjourned until Wednesday.
The apex court, in a verbal order after today’s hearing, said Prime Minister Imran Khan issued the notification in his own capacity and the mistake was realised after the said notification was issued.
“The prime minister then sent the summary to the president who then approved it on August 19,” it said.
The court in its verbal order further said that dealing with regional security was the job of the army as an institution and is not the sole responsibility of an officer. “If the reasoning [regional security] is accepted, then all officers would want a reappointment.”
The apex court further observed that the attorney general could not provide any legal reasoning for the extension and according to the Army Rules, the retirement of an officer can be temporarily suspended only.
Prime Minister Imran had announced the reappointment of Gen Qamar in August, citing regional security environment. However, in recent weeks there had been speculations in the media with some questioning as to whether a formal notification of extension in tenure had been issued.
TLTP adds: The top court Tuesday suspended operation of the federal government notification for extension in service to the incumbent Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
A three-member bench led by Chief Justice Sardar Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, comprising Justice Mazhar Alam and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah took the decision over a constitutional petition challenging General Bajwa’s extension on today. General Qamar is set to retire on November 29 upon completion of his three-year term. General Bajwa’s reappointment notified on August 19 extended his tenure by three years citing “regional security environment.”
Advocate Supreme Court Riaz Hanif Rahi filed the plea on behalf of Jurist Foundation urging the court to declare the extension illegal to which the top court has issued notices to parties of the case for November 27 including General Bajwa while observing “The issues involved warrant a detailed review”.
General Bajwa is set to retire on November 29 upon completion of his three-year term. General Bajwa’s reappointment notified on August 19 extended his tenure by three years citing “regional security environment.”
“If the said regional security threat is taken as justification for extension/reappointment then every person retiring from the armed forces will seek reappointment”, the Chief Justice Sardar Asif Saeed Khan Khosa observed .
Earlier he said, “If the regional security threat is real, then it is the gallant armed forces as a body that will respond to it and the role of an individual can only be minimal.”
Lawyers welcomed the top court order warmly. Leading layer leader Hamid Khan noted while talking to TLTP, “it is a collective victory for the lawyers as well as the media that the supreme court has been strengthened to issue such courageous judgments”.
The federal government had said that “the notification for the reappointment of General Qamar Javed Bajwa as COAS for another tenure had already been issued on August 19, 2019.”
Attorney General for Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan had relied on Rule 25 of the Army Regulation that authorizes the federal government to suspend retirement or reappointment of army officers. Mansoor held Rule 25 bestows jurisdiction upon the federal government to extend the tenure of the COAS.
However, the Chief Justice disagreed with his arguments in his orders noting “It is like putting the cart before the horse”. He earlier stressed, “Rule 25 can be invoked only after the said officer has already retired”.
The order is based upon the court’s appreciation that the process leading to the notification followed by the federal government was “flawed”. First the cabinet approval was not in place and then it was secured, a majority of the cabinet did not agree with the extension for the summary moved reported only 11 out of the 25 cabinet members agreed to issue the notification.