Cabinet defines COAS tenure

Amendment approved in Army Act Maximum age limit fixed 64 years for services Chiefs Amended Act to regulate extension of Army Chief’s tenure as well

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet on Wednesday approved an amendment to the Army Act in light of the directions given by the Supreme Court last month in a case pertaining to the extension in tenure of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
An emergency meeting of the cabinet was convened on Wednesday under the chair of Prime Minister Imran Khan to review the amendment in the Act for the extension in service of the army chief. According to sources, it is expected that the government may table the bill in the current session of the parliament. President ArifAlvi had on Tuesday convened a session of both the upper and lower house of the parliament on a twenty-four hour notice. The move was unexpected, since the upper house of the legislature had not met for 124 days, apart from a requisitioned session. The apex court had in late November asked the government to legislate on the extension in service of the COAS within six months, allowing General Bajwa to stay in office until then, after briefly suspending the notification of the extension in his tenure. The PTI-led government, during an emergency meeting of the federal cabinet on Wednesday, made amendments to the Army Act, according to sources within the cabinet. The amendments, passed unanimously, were made to the clauses related to the army chief’s tenure and extension. The meeting was presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The government has yet to share details regarding the amendments. According to a private news channel, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak said that the cabinet approved amendments in Section 172 of the Army Act. The amendment bill also includes a suggestion to extend the tenure of all the three services chief, Khattak was quoted as saying. On November 28, the Supreme Court in a short order announced that Gen QamarJavedBajwa will remain the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) for another six months, during which the parliament would legislate on the extension/reappointment of an army chief. The top court’s ruling came in the nick of time as Gen Bajwa was set to retire at midnight. Prime Minister Imran Khan had extended Bajwa’s tenure through a notification in August, but the top court suspended it on November 26 due to irregularities in the manner of extension. On December 26, the government submitted a review petition against the top court’s verdict and asked that it be set aside. “The review petition was filed [in the Supreme Court] because our legal team thoroughly, comprehensively, and closely reviewed all aspects of the decision and concluded that there are several legal gaps in the verdict,” prime minister’s aide FirdousAshiqAwan had said while talking to the media. She, however, said that the option of legislation through the parliament will remain intact even after filing of the review petition, adding that Law Minister FaroghNaseem will brief the media in detail about this. Jointly moved on behalf of the defence ministry, Prime Minister Imran Khan, President DrArifAlvi and Gen Bajwa, the review petition was filed soon after Law Minister FaroghNaseem paid a visit to the Attorney General Office. The petition was filed under Article 188 of the Constitution dealing with the review jurisdiction under which earlier orders of the court can be altered only if some error is highlighted, as well as under Article 187 that empowers the top judiciary to issue directives to do complete justice. Ball in parliament’s court,the Supreme Court, in its detailed judgment, emphasised that it is now up to the parliament to carry out legislation that will provide “certainty and predictability” to the post of COAS for all times to come.