Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa attended on Wednesday a consultation meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad, sources within the PM’s office told SAMAA TV.
The meeting discussed an amendment in the summary of three-year extension in General Bajwa’s tenure as the army chief, the sources said. The government’s legal team briefed the premier on the objections raised by the Supreme Court, they said.
The meeting had senior legislator Babr Awan, former law minister Farogh Naseem and Attorney General Anwar Mansoor in presence, the sources added.
Earlier in the day, the apex court observed that Article 255, which was amended by the government yesterday, had nothing to do with the army chief. It was hearing a petition filed by the Jurist Foundation against the three-year extension in General Bajwa’s tenure.
The court noted that there was no mention of the army chief’s tenure in the law. The law was silent on this matter so under which rule was his tenure set, asked the judges.
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah asked the AGP that if the government had the power to extend retired officers’ tenures, then could a retired officer be appointed COAS.
The army chief had the power to extend tenures during the war time but what about his tenure, the judges asked.
Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said five to seven generals had been extending their tenures for 10 years at a time and no one asked any questions.
The judges said they would look into this case, the Army Act and regulations, understand it, and make a decision that will set a precedent in the country.
The six-hour-long hearing was then adjourned.
The petition was filed by Riaz Hanif Rahi on behalf of the Jurist Foundation. On Tuesday, the foundation sought to withdraw it 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. But the bench rejected the request to withdraw the original petition.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court suspended the official notification that extended the army chief’s tenure. Farogh Naseem resigned as federal law minister to represent General Bajwa in the case.
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 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.
Understanding the case
On August 19, the prime minister re-appointed the army chief. But, when he was informed that he didn’t have the power to do so as it was the prerogative of the president, then a summary was sent on the same day to the President House. President Arif Alvi 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 could not be considered as approved. Even if it was considered approved by the cabinet, the summary was never sent back to the prime minister or the president.
The court said if the argument that the army chief’s tenure should be extended because of a threat to regional security was to be accepted, then everyone in the army would start seeking an extension in their tenures. It was not an individual’s responsibility, but the entire army’s as an institution to counter a regional threat.