The matter of extending the tenure of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa should be resolved with consensus of political parties, says Fawad Chaudhry, a minister in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet.
“The army chief doesn’t belong to any single political party, but to all,” said Chaudhry in an exclusive interview to SAMAA TV Wednesday.
The federal government has been trying to sit with the opposition parties to discuss the issues related to the extension in General Bajwa’s tenure. The opposition, however, has so far kept the ruling party at arm’s length due to ongoing corruption cases against its leaders.
PM Khan had appointed the current COAS for another term of three years on August 19, 2019. The president then granted him the extension.
The extension was challenged in the Supreme Court in November. The top court had allowed the government to grant General Bajwa extension for another six months on November 28 but it added that the parliament will have to amend or make new laws to give the army chief extension for three years.
According to the judgment, the rules don’t even allow the chief executive of the country to grant a serving officer an extension in his tenure.
Later on December 26, the federal government filed a review petition against the top court’s verdict.
The army chief’s extension is not the only issue that the government needs to resolve. It also wants to amend the NAB laws and it can’t do that without a consensus in the parliament.
“The opposition should cooperate [with us] in amending the NAB’s laws,” Chaudhry said.
The federal cabinet approved on Friday the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 that restricts NAB from taking action over corruption worth less than Rs500 million. The move drew criticism from the opposition which claimed the premier was trying to “benefit his friends”.
Chaudhry criticised the opposition parties for voicing concerns over the existing NAB laws, but resisting the government's efforts to bring changes into it.
The minister said that reforms were needed so that people could not point fingers at institutions responsible for accountability.
When asked about his expectations in 2020, the federal minister admitted that the new year began with mistrust between two key state institutions: the military and the judiciary.
“It’s not because of what has happened in the last six to eight months,” said Chaudhry, referring to a special court's verdict sentencing former military dictator Pervez Musharraf to death for high treason.
There has been restlessness in the judiciary since the restoration of former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry in 2007, he added.
The minister also urged the media to play its role in bringing the institutions closer.