Last chance for govt to satisfy top court over COAS’ extension before his retirement at midnight

Web Desk – November 28, 2019

All eyes are on the Supreme Court, where a three-judge bench will hear today a case pertaining to the extension/reappointment of incumbent Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

As Gen Bajwa is set to retire at midnight, this is the last opportunity for the government to satisfy the court on the legal grounds of the move. The chief justice, before adjourning the hearing yesterday, said that there were three points which the court will consider:

  • the law
  • the procedure involved
  • the grounds for granting the army chief an extension

He had said that the first two issues are very important and based on those, the court will announce its decision. Gen Bajwa will be able to continue his service if the Supreme Court decides the case in his favour before November 29.

During yesterday’s hearing, the bench, comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Mian Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, was irked by the fact that after Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan submitted a summary to President Arif Alvi for approval to “reappoint” the army chief on his retirement and the new appointment was made under Article 243(4) of the Constitution, but the notification later issued pertains to the “grant of extension” to the COAS for another term of three years.

The attorney general chalked the gaffe up to “clerical errors” by the ministry.

“No one even bothered to read what they are issuing,” Justice Khosa observed, regretting the way the law ministry dealt with the issue.

“Please settle the matter by Thursday because you have only one day or the time will be over and the court will decide in accordance with the Constitution and the law,” the chief justice said, highlighting the need for urgency in view of COAS’ fast-approaching retirement.

Following the court’s adjournment, an emergency meeting was called at Prime Minister House to debate the government’s strategy for tomorrow’s hearing. The meeting was attended by Gen Bajwa himself, along with Prime Minister Imran and several ministers.

Later that night, a draft notification for Gen Bajwa’s extension — keeping in view the court’s observations — was prepared, which is expected to be submitted today.

Suspension of notification

In an unanticipated development on Tuesday, CJP Khosa had suspended the federal government’s notification of Gen Bajwa’s extension and issued notices to the army chief, defence ministry and the federal government.

The Supreme Court said the AG could not refer to any provision in any legal instrument regarding extension in service of the army chief upon completion of his first term for his re-appointment.

Shortly after the extension order was struck down by the top court, the cabinet amended Section 255 of the Army Rules and Regulations and included the words “extension in tenure” to meet the legal lacuna in the rule.

It also emerged that the federal cabinet in its two sittings, Prime Minister Imran and President Alvi approved a fresh notification for the extension of the COAS.

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