Govt tables Army Act Amendment Bills in National Assembly

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Defence Pervez Khattak on Friday tabled the Pak­­­is­tan Army (Amend­ment) Act 2020 in the National Assembly, paving the way for a three-year extension to Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Khattak also presented the Pakistan Navy (Amendment Act) and the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment Act), separately.
The laws will fix 64 years as the maximum age limit of the three services chiefs — chief of army staff, chief of air staff and chief of naval staff — and the chairman of the joint chief of staff committee, with the prime minister having the prerogative to give an extension to any of them in future after completion of their normal tenure at the age of 60 years and the president having the power to give the final nod.
During the brief session, PML-N’s Khawaja Asif asked that the production orders of those leaders who are under detention be produced. The session was adjourned until 11am tomorrow (Saturday).
The bills are also expected to be tabled in the Senate today.
Speaking to reporters, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that PPP will support the legislation if it is done through the parliamentary rules and regulations.
He said that the bills will first be sent to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence and the matter will be discussed in the House, adding that PML-N had not taken the opposition into confidence before offering the government their unconditional support on the legislation.
PTI Minister Fawad Chaudhry also said the bills would be reviewed by the committee and then debated during tomorrow’s session.
Leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) have expressed confidence that the bill will be passed by the parliament with the required simple majority. The current sessions of the Senate and the National Assembly were convened on a 24-hour notice on Dec 31 – a move that took many by surprise.
In a rare show of agreement, the government and the opposition reached consensus on Thursday over the proposed amendments to the Army Act. PML-N assured the government of its “unconditional” support to the bill, but PPP cautioned the government against displaying haste in the matter to ensure proper and sagacious legislation thro­ugh the parliament.
Law Minister Farogh Naseem had said all parties and stakeholders were on the same page regarding the passage of the bill.
Earlier, in an urgent meeting on Wednesday, the federal cabinet had unanimously approved proposed amendments to the Constitution and the Army Act in order to give a three-year extension to Gen Bajwa.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had previously extended Gen Bajwa’s tenure through a notification in August 2019, but the top court suspended it on Nov 26, 2019, due to irregularities in the manner of extension.
After three days of heightened uncertainty, the apex court, through a short order on Nov 28, 2019, had announced that Gen Bajwa would remain the COAS for another six months during which the parliament would legislate on the army chief’s extension/reappointment.
In its detailed verdict released on Dec 16, 2019, the top court had emphasised that it was up to the parliament to carry out legislation that would provide “certainty and predictability” to the post of the COAS for all times to come.
“We would like to emphasise that this crucial matter of the tenure of COAS and its extension, which has a somewhat chequered history, is before the Parliament, to fix for all times to come,” wrote Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, a member of the three-judge bench which heard the case, in the court’s 43-page judgment.
“It is now for the people of Pakistan and their chosen representatives in the Parliament to come up with a law that will provide certainty and predictability to the post of COAS, remembering that in strengthening institutions, nations prosper.”
Both Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Asif Saeed Khosa agreed with Justice Shah’s judgment, with Justice Khosa saying in his additional note that it had been a “shocking revelation” to the bench that the terms and conditions of service of the COAS, the tenure of his office, extension in the tenure of his office or his reappointment to that office “have remained unregulated by any law so far”.
In the wake of the apex court’s order, the government had decided to introduce the amendment bill in parliament on Friday (today) after building a consensus with the opposition on the matter.


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