Wednesday Jan 08, 2020
ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Wednesday took up voting on three bills pertaining to the tenures of the three services chiefs, with Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani reading out the bills clause by clause and recording senators' votes from a verbal call of 'ayes' and 'noes'.
With uncharacteristic efficiency, the bills sailed through the Upper House, undeterred by the vocal protests of minor opposition parties like the National Party, the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and the Jamaat-i-Islami.
As soon as the bills were passed, the Senate chairman adjourned the session.
All eyes are now on President Arif Alvi, whose signatures on the bills will formalise them into law.
The National Assembly and the Senate Standing Committee on Defence had already given their go ahead to the bills a day earlier.
All the major parties had promised their near unquestioning assent to the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2020; the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Bill, 2020; and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) bill, 2020.
Some opposition lawmakers, including MNAs from the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl and representatives from erstwhile Fata, did not prove as pliant and walked out in protest from the lower house during the vote.
The proposed amendments set the maximum age limit of the three services chiefs — chief of army staff, chief of air staff and chief of naval staff — at 64 years.
Once the bills are passed, the prime minister will have the power to extend the tenure of any service chief and the president will give his final nod to the extension or reappointment.
Under the clause 8B of the bill, the president, on the advice of the prime minister, may “reappoint the Chief of the Army Staff for additional tenure of three (03) years, on such terms and conditions, as may be determined by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister, in the national security interest or exigencies, from time to time”.
“Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or any other law, or any order or judgement of any Court, the appointment, reappointment or extension of the Chief of the Army Staff, or the exercise of discretion by the appointing authority in this regard, shall not be called into question before any court on any ground whatsoever, “ the bill states.
Back in November 2018, the Supreme Court had asked the government to legislate on an extension in the COAS's services within six months, allowing General Qamar Javed Bajwa to stay in office until then.
Prior to that, PM Imran in August had approved the extension in the COAS's services through an executive order. Former chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa had in late November taken up a petition challenging the extension in service of the COAS, deeming it 'in the public interest'.
The court had subsequently suspended the notification of the extension in General Bajwa's tenure.
Last month, after the top court issued the detailed verdict in the 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.
Side by side, it had launched the formalities to formulate a bill formalising the rules governing the army chief's extension and have it passed through parliament.