ISLAMABAD: All eyes are on the Supreme Court as it reconvened again on Thursday – a day after the chief justice-led bench grilled the country’s top law official over the extension/reappointment of incumbent army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
General Bajwa is set to retire at midnight Thursday if the government fails to satisfy the apex court.
The three-judge bench headed by Justice Khosa announced that the court will announce a short order later today. He further instructed that the “parliament should pass legislation on the matter within six months”.
“If the legislation is not passed during the given time, the appointment will become illegal.”
Announcing an adjournment till 1 pm, the apex court further instructed the government to correct the notification and the summary. “Make the required changes and bring it to the court. We will announce the judgement today,” said the chief justice.
At the start of the day’s proceedings at 9:30 am, the court directed the AG to submit documents related to the retirement Gen (retd) Raheel Sharif and the extension of Gen (retd) Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani. A brief adjournment then took place to provide time to the attorney general for submission of said documents.
“The documents will be presented in the court shortly. The army chief was reappointed as per Article 243,” said AG Anwar.
Going through the documents after resuming the hearing, the chief justice said that the documents do not mention who granted an extension to General Kiyani and neither do the documents mention “under which law he was given the extension”.
“There should not be any confusion over such an important post.”
“We want to see what is written on those documents. We have been told that a general never retires. If a general never retire then there must be no pension and if there is no retirement for generals, then what is their mode of earnings,” questioned the chief justice.
“How is the appointment that took place today different from the previous ones? You will have to convince us, how the latest appointment is accurate,” continued Justice Khosa.
“Extensions were happening in the past but no one took notice of it. No one is watching what is happening in cantonments. Under which law does is this practice continuing? Now a constitutional institution is reviewing this matter. The appointment procedure should be clearly written on the constitutional post,” said the CJP.
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah said that the appointment of an army chief should be as per the law.
The Pakistan Bar Association (PBA), meanwhile, restored the license of Barrister Farogh Naseem, who stepped down as law minister to represent Gen Bajwa in the case. He was told by the court to settle the licence issue or come with a subordinate if he wanted to represent the COAS.
Army Act in focus during Wednesday’s hearing
The SC, on Wednesday, had given the government one more day to explain why it granted a three-year extension to army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The petition was filed by Advocate Riaz Hanif Rahi of The Jurist Foundation challenging the extension/reappointment of COAS General Bajwa.
Attorney General of Pakistan Mansoor Ali Khan submitted before the bench a fresh summary hastily crafted at an unscheduled sitting of the federal cabinet Tuesday night where Rule 255 of the Army Regulations was tweaked to bring in the words “extension in service” to satisfy the apex court which had pointed out discrepancies in the first summary and the notification.
Justice Khosa remarked that the bench would view the Army Act and regulations section-wise to reach a conclusion on the army chief’s tenure.
The bench told the AGP to explain why the government has granted a three-year extension in the service of COAS, who was due to retire tonight at midnight.
“If something unlawful has happened, then we have taken an oath to correct it,” Justice Khosa remarked. The government has so far failed to furnish a legal justification for reappointing Gen Bajwa, he added.
Justice Shah remarked that the bench knows that the prime minister has the authority to appoint anyone as COAS but the question is whether a retired army chief could be reappointed.
The notification for General Bajwa’s re-appointment for another three-year term was issued on August 19, signed by Prime Minister Imran Khan. However, it came to light in a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office to announce the appointment of General Nadeem Raza as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee last Thursday.
The federal cabinet has twice approved a three-year extension for General Bajwa, citing a worsening national security situation in the region.
But in a surprise ruling on Tuesday, the Supreme Court suspended the extension, citing a series of irregularities.
The court adjourned without passing a verdict on Wednesday. The SC bench pointed out yet another contradiction between the notification and the fresh summary prepared by the cabinet.
The bench said it was giving the “last chance” to fix the error.