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SC suspends notification extending Army chief’s tenure

November 26, 2019
SC suspends notification extending Army chief’s tenure

The Supreme Court has suspended the official notification that extended the tenure of Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa by three years.

The army chief is completing his tenure at the post on November 28 and a new army chief was supposed to take command of the forces by the next day, November 29. In August, however, Prime Minister Imran Khan approved extending the tenure of General Bajwa for another three years.

“General Qamar Javed Bajwa is appointed Chief of Army Staff for another term of three years from the date of completion of [his] current tenure,” a notification issued from the Prime Minister’s Office had said.

In response, the Jurist Foundation had filed a petition, challenging the decision to extend General Bajwa’s tenure as army chief. It was filed through their advocate Riaz Hanif Rahi.

But by Tuesday, they sought to withdraw their petition. This request was heard by three judges of the Supreme Court: Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah. The bench rejected the request to withdraw the original petition.

The court said that it will hear the case as it is a matter of national interest and comes under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution. The court has converted the petition into a suo motu case.

The court has named the army chief as a party in the case and ordered the attorney general, the highest legal representative of the government, to give final arguments. The court has issued notices to other parties named in the case, including the prime minister and President Dr Arif Alvi. It has asked them to submit their replies.

The Supreme Court said that the attorney general was asked under what law can an army chief’s tenure be extended or he can be re-appointed. But the country’s top lawyer failed to do so.

The case will now be heard on Wednesday.

Background
On August 19, the prime minister re-appointed the army chief. But when he was informed that he doesn’t have the power to do this, as it is the prerogative of the President, then a summary was sent on the same day to the President. He then approved the re-appointment, according to the court.

After this, the government realized that the Cabinet has to approve the extension. Then, on August 20, a day after the notification had been issued, a summary for the extension was sent to the Cabinet: 11 out of 25 cabinet members approved the summary. The rest of the Cabinet members did not respond. The court said that since the majority of the Cabinet did not approve the summary, it can not be considered as approved. Even if it is considered an approval from the cabinet, the summary never went back to the prime minister or the President.

The court said that if the argument were accepted that the army chief’s tenure should be extended because of a threat to regional security, then everyone in the army would start seeking an extension in their tenures. It is not an individual’s but the army’s responsibility as an institution to counter a regional threat.

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