ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Supreme Court on Wednesday postponed the hearing for a day to rule on a proposed extension to army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa’s tenure for another three years.
Bajwa was due to retire at midnight on Thursday after completing his initial three-year term but Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan granted him a second period in the post because of the “regional security environment.”
During the daylong hearing, Pakistani Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan presented, on behalf of the government, the arguments in favor of the move but failed to convince the apex court about legal provisions adopted to grant the extension.
Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, presiding over the case brought on the request of the petitioner, Advocate Riaz Hanif, adjourned proceedings until Thursday for the resolution of legal issues. “There is still time. The government should look into the issue by tomorrow, otherwise we are bound to fulfill our duty under the constitution,” he said.
On Tuesday, the court had suspended the government’s notification of Aug. 19, extending the general’s term for another three years, citing procedural flaws, and instructed the Ministry of Defense, the federal government, and the army chief to file their respective responses on Wednesday.
Shortly after the court hearing, Prime Minister Khan convened a special session of the Cabinet to discuss the issue. A new summary for the extension of Bajwa’s tenure was approved and duly endorsed by Khan and President Arif Alvi.
The chief justice told the court that the premier had requested the reappointment of Bajwa, but the president had issued a notification for an extension of the general’s tenure. “They (the Law Ministry) never bothered to check what was written and what they were sending (to the president for approval),” Khosa said.
On the handling of the matter, he added: “They (the government) should not do something like this with a high-ranking officer.”
However, the attorney-general tried to play down the gaffe, referring to it as a “clerical error.” He said that the process was “nothing new” adding that extensions had been granted to different army chiefs in the past and were “notified in the same manner.”
Barrister Farogh Naseem, who on Tuesday resigned as Pakistani minister of law and justice, was present in the packed courtroom to represent the army chief and was expected to give his arguments before the court on Thursday.
The attorney general told the hearing that “until command is handed over to another general, the army chief cannot be considered retired.”