The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday suspended the government’s decision to grant a three-year extension to Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, Dawn reported. Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, in his order, said that “the summary and approval of Army chief’s extension is not correct”.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had in August said that the “regional security environment” was the reason Bajwa’s tenure was being extended. On Tuesday, Khosa also issued summons to the defence ministry, federal government and Bajwa, who is due to retire on Friday. The hearings will continue on Wednesday.
Non-governmental organisation The Jurists Foundation had filed a petition earlier this month challenging the extension granted to Bajwa. The foundation later filed a withdrawal application in the top court. However, Justice Khosa refused to accept the withdrawal plea, and took up the matter as a public interest litigation.
Khosa observed: “The petitioner has failed to appear in person nor anybody else has appeared on his behalf. The [withdrawal] application received does not carry any date and the same is not accompanied by any affidavit. There is nothing before us to accept or to presume that the said application has actually been submitted by the petitioner himself or that he has submitted the same voluntarily.”
The court said the retirement of an Army officer can only be temporarily suspended, according to the Army Regulations (Rules). “Suspending a retirement or limiting a retirement before the retirement has actually taken effect may amount to putting the cart before the horse,” Justice Khosa said. He added that Pakistan Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan has submitted before the court that in the laws relating to the Army, there is no express provision for reappointment or extension of tenure of an Army officer.
Khosa said only the president of Pakistan can extend the tenure of the Army chief. He also noted that out of 25 members of the Imran Khan Cabinet, only 11 had approved the extension. “Does the cabinet not want to give members the time to think?” Khosa asked. “The 14 members of the cabinet still have not said ‘yes’ to Army chief’s extension.”
Bajwa has been in the post since November 2016. The extension of Bajwa’s term came amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan over the former’s decisions on Jammu and Kashmir.