Thursday, January 02, 2020

Army Act amendment: PML-N lends unconditional support, PPP urges parties to follow democratic process

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari urges all parties to avoid sidestepping the "democratic legislative process"

While the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has decided to unconditionally support the Army Act amendment, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has voiced support for the 'democratic legislative process' to be followed. 

The amendment seeks to make future extensions of army chiefs airtight as the bill states categorically that it "shall not be called into question before any court on any ground whatsoever".

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari took to Twitter to urge parties not to sidestep the democratic process. 

"Government committee arrived at Zardari house to discuss upcoming legislation. The Peoples Party wants to positively engage with the democratic legislative process. Some parties seem to want to side step the legislative process," he tweeted. 

"The more important the legislation the more important it is for us to follow the democratic process. PPP will take this up with other political parties as well."

Earlier, sources had told Geo News that the PML-N had decided to unconditionally support the amendment. The decision was made after a meeting of PML-N parliamentary members received a message from the party leadership on Thursday advising it to fully back the amendment bill when it is tabled in the parliament by the government, according to sources. 

The PML-N leadership reportedly does not want the position of COAS to become controversial, and has thus decided to support the PTI government in a bid to amend the Army Act under the directions of a verdict of the Supreme Court in this regard. 

Also read: PML-N to file robbery case against DG FIA

Cabinet approves amendments to Army Act

The federal cabinet, in an emergency meeting on Wednesday, had accorded its approval to amendments in the Army Act under which the prime minister will be empowered to extend the tenure of all services chiefs.

The bill pertaining to the amendment will be tabled in the National Assembly tomorrow (Friday). The amendment has been prepared according to the guidelines enumerated in the Supreme Court's verdict.

Earlier, on Wednesday, 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: PML-N taunts PM Imran for skipping KL summit

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 General 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.

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.