SC verdict: Army Chief General Bajwa given six-month extension

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ISLAMABAD :Supreme Court on Thursday granted a six-month conditional extension to incumbent General Qamar Javed Bajwa in his service as the chief of army staff (COAS), and ordered the government to complete the required legislation within six months for extension/appointment of an army chief.A three-member bench comprising of Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Mian Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah announced short verdict on a petition filed by The Jurists Foundation through its Chairman Riaz Rahi against Extension of Tenure of Chief of the Army Staff.

In its short order, the Supreme Court remarked: “The extension/reappointment of General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) has been challenged before us. In the proceedings before us during the last three days the Federal Government has moved from one position to another referring to it as reappointment, limiting of retirement or extension of tenure and has also interchangeably placed reliance on Article 243(4)(b) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 and Regulation 255 of the Army Regulations (Rules), 1998. However, finally today the Federal Government through the learned Attorney General for Pakistan has presented this Court with a recent summary approved by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister alongwith Notification dated 28.11.2019 which shows that General Qamar Javed Bajwa has been appointed as COAS under Article 243(4)(b) of the Constitution with effect from 28.11.2019.”

“We have examined Article 243(4)(b) of the Constitution, Pakistan Army Act, 1952, Pakistan Army Act Rules, 1954 and Army Regulations (Rules), 1998 and inspite of the assistance rendered by the learned Attorney-General, we could not find any provision relating to the tenure of COAS or of a General and whether the COAS can be reappointed or his term can be extended or his retirement can be limited or suspended under the Constitution or the law. The learned Attorney-General has taken pains to explain that the answers to these questions are based on practice being followed in the Pakistan Army but the said practice has not been codified under the law,” the apex court stated.

The court stated that Article 243 of the Constitution clearly mandates that the Federal Government shall have control and command of the Armed Forces and the supreme command of the Armed Forces shall vest in the President. It further provides that the President shall, subject to law, have power to raise and maintain the military, etc. and it is the President who on the advice of the Prime Minister shall appoint, inter alia, COAS.

Article 243 of the Constitution, therefore, clearly shows that the President shall, subject to law, raise and maintain the military, however, the laws referred to above do not specify the tenure, retirement, reappointment and extension of the COAS or of a General of the Pakistan Army, the three-member bench added.

“The learned Attorney-General has categorically assured the Court that this practice being followed is to be codified under the law and undertakes that the Federal Government shall initiate the process to carry out the necessary legislation in this regard and seeks a period of six months for getting the needful done.”

The court further said: “Considering that the COAS is responsible for the command, discipline, training, administration, organization and preparedness for war of the Army and is the Chief Executive in General Headquarters, we, while exercising judicial restraint, find it appropriate to leave the matter to the Parliament and the Federal Government to clearly specify the terms and conditions of service of the COAS through an Act of Parliament and to clarify the scope of Article 243 of the Constitution in this regard.”

“Therefore, the current appointment of General Qamar Javed Bajwa as COAS shall be subject to the said legislation and shall continue for a period of six months from today, whereafter the new legislation shall determine his tenure and other terms and conditions of service,” the Supreme Court announced.

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