Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Cabinet approves amendment to Army Act

Amendment bill to be tabled in the parliament for approval soon, say sources

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet on Wednesday approved an amendment to the Pakistan Army Act in light of the Supreme Court's directions last month in a case pertaining to an extension in the tenure of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired an emergency cabinet meeting today to review the amendment in the Act for the extension in the army chief's services. According to sources, it was expected that the government may table the bill in the Parliament's current session.

Earlier, on Tuesday, President Dr Arif Alvi had convened a session of the Parliament's upper and lower houses on a 24-hour notice. The move was unexpected as the upper house of the legislature had not met for 124 days apart from a requisitioned session.

Also read: SC permits govt to extend Gen Bajwa's tenure by six months

Chaudhry says 'need consensus'

Separately, the minister for science and technology, Fawad Chaudhry, said on Wednesday that the government was likely to make amendments to the Army Act this week.

While speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, Chaudhry said there was a need for a national agenda to take matters forward. "How can Pakistan move ahead when there is a huge gap between the government and the Opposition?" he questioned.

The minister asked how could the system work if there was no legislation on the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan Army Act, and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The administration and the opposition would have to bridge the gaps, at least on national issues, he reasoned.

He further said that the minister for defence, Pervez Khattak, was heading a government committee that was in talks with the Opposition parties regarding legislative matters.

"They need to inform us as to what they agree on in the amendment and what they don’t agree with," Chaudhry said. "We need consensus on the accountability, ECP, and the judiciary. [God-willing], we shall move forward with mutual consent."

SC directs govt to legislate on COAS tenure

Back in November, the apex court had asked the government to legislate on an extension in the COAS's services within six months, allowing Gen Bajwa to stay in office until then, after briefly suspending the notification of the extension in his tenure.

Prior to that, PM Imran in August had approved the extension in the COAS's services through an executive order. However, former chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa had in late November taken up a petition 'in public interest', challenging the extension in service of the COAS. 

Also read: SC issues detailed verdict on army chief's extension

While taking up the petition, the former chief justice had dismissed a plea by the petitioner, Riaz Rahi, to take back the plea he had filed earlier that year challenging the extension in service of the army chief. A three member bench of the top court had heard the case. 

Last month, after the top court issued the detailed verdict in the COAS case, the government had filed a review petition in the SC, pleading the court to form a larger bench to hear the case, and requesting it to keep the proceedings in-camera.