Bill set for smooth sailing with consensus

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf on Friday tabled Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2020 aiming to extend Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s tenure for three years. Defence Minister Pervez Khattak introduced three bills— Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2020, Pakistan Air Force Amendment Bill 2020, and Pakistan Navy Amendment Bill 2020—in the Parliament. The Army Amendment Bill 2020 aims at setting the retirement age of the chief of army staff (COAS) at 64 years and empowering the prime minister to extend his tenures by three years. National Assembly Speaker, Asad Qaiser with the consent of the House, suspended the question hour session for the next week, on a motion moved by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan. The lower house will now meet at 11 am tomorrow. Prime Minister Imran Khan, earlier, chaired a parliamentary party meeting during which the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC) chairman and member of the National Assembly Ramesh Kumar questioned why the government appealed if the law was to be legislated. The prime minister said the appointment of key positions is the responsibility of the government, adding that the judiciary interferes with the administration’s authority. According to sources, the party’s parliamentary members were also briefed on the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Amendment Ordinance 2019. The premier said bureaucrats and the business community had raised concerns regarding NAB and the development of the economy was stagnant due to these concerns. He said the NAB Amendment Ordinance 2019 is in the best interest of the country, and that the government committee is in talks with the opposition regarding the matter. Earlier this week, the federal cabinet approved amendments to the Army Act, 1952 setting the retirement age of the chief of army staff (COAS) at 64 years and empowering the prime minister to extend his tenures by three years. The cabinet unanimously gave the nod of approval at an “emergency” meeting chaired by the premier. The decision caught many by surprise as only a few days ago the government had challenged the Supreme Court’s judgment on the COAS extension/ reappointment maintaining that there were “legal and constitutional faults” in it. The cabinet meeting approved the draft of an amendment bill, which proposed changes to Section 172 of the Army Act 1952. Minister for Defence Pervaiz Khattak Friday introduced three separate bills in the National Assembly to amend Pakistan Army Act 1952, Pakistan Air Force Act 1953 and Pakistan Navy Ordinance 1961, allowing for extension in the tenures of the three services chiefs. The minister presented the bill after the House suspended its regular proceedings on a motion moved by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan. The three bills introduced in the House were “Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2020”, Pakistan Air force (Amendment) Bill 2020”, and Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Bill 2020. The three bills would also determine the tenure, reappointment or extension in tenure of the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. According to the statement of objects and reasons of the three bills, the Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2020 seeks to amend the provisions of the Pakistan Army Act, 1952, so as to empower the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister, to specify the tenure and terms and conditions of service of the Chief of the Army Staff or the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee including the grant of extension and re-appointment of the Chief of the Army Staff or Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. The Pakistan Air Force Amendment Bill 2020 seeks to amend the provisions of the Pakistan Air Force Act,1953 so as to empower the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister, to specify the tenure and the terms and conditions of service of the Chief of the Air Staff or Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, including the grant of extension, and re-appointment of the Chief of Air Staff or the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. The Pakistan Navy Amendment Act 2020 seeks to amend the provisions of the Pakistan Navy Ordinance, 1961 so as to empower the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister, to specify the tenure and the terms and conditions of service of the Chief of the Naval Staff or the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee including the grant of extension, and re-appointment of the Chief of the Naval Staff or the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. The bills were presented in the National Assembly in light of the Supreme Court’s judgment November 28, 2019, passed in the constitution petition No. 39 of 2019.