Govt secures Opp support

PTI delegation meets PML-N, PPP, JUI-F Passage of unanimous amendment likely to validate COAS extension

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ISLAMABAD: After Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples’ Party has decided to back the federal government’s Army Act amendment bill in the National Assembly. As per the details, the decision was taken during a party’s consultative meeting presided over by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The meeting decided to ask the government not to hurry in making a decision and the government members should be given time for preparation. Earlier today, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) parliamentary committee decided to back the federal government’s Army Act amendment bill in National Assembly. According to details, the senior leadership of PML-N has directed its members of NA to approve the bill with consensus. The decision came after government delegation headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak held a meeting with PML-N leaders and sought their support on the Army Act amendment bill. The committee consisting of Pervez. Khattak, Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Senator Azam Swati and Leader of the House in Senate Syed Shibli Faraz arrived at opposition’s chamber and discussed the matter with PML-N’s Khawaja Asif, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Rana Tanvir and others. Earlier today, the federal government had also requested the Supreme Court of Pakistan to form a five-member larger bench in case pertaining to army chief’s extension and suspend the decision of November 28 till the review petition’s verdict. The federation had filed two miscellaneous pleas seeking a stay order over the previous decision and to form a larger bench following the review petition which was filed earlier. Previously, Federal Cabinet had approved amendment in Army Act for an extension in the tenure of all military chiefs. The cabinet meeting proposed a three-year extension in the tenure of all military chiefs – Army, Navy and the Air Force. The retirement age of three armed forces will be 64 years. The proposed bill stated that the Prime Minister of Pakistan can advise an extension in the tenure of any service chief. It is pertinent here to mention that the top court had allowed extension/reappointment of Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa for another six months and asked the government to determine the tenure, terms and conditions of the service of the army chief through legislation within the period. The court summarised its findings after exploring the scope of Article 243 of the Constitution — which governs the army chief’s appointment, reviewing the Pakistan Army Act, 1952, reviewing the Pakistan Army Act, 1952, the Pakistan Army Act Rules, 1954, and the Army Regulations (Rules) The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government on Thursday reached out to members of opposition parties to garner support for making amendments to the Army Act and the Constitution in order to give a three-year extension to Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen QamarJavedBajwa. The move comes a day after the proposed amendments were rushed through the federal cabinet, which unanimously granted its approval for the changes, both to the Constitution and the Army Act. The Supreme Court in November last year had directed the government to remove ambiguity in rules on the issue of extension in the army chief’s tenure. A delegation of PTI lawmakers, including Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Ali Muhammad Khan and QasimSuri, met PPP leaders, including the party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, on Thursday evening. The PPP leaders at the meeting that took place at Zardari House included Raja Pervez Ashraf, NayyarBukhari, Sherry Rehman, RazaRabbani, ShaziaMarri and NaveedQamar. According to sources, the PPP assured its support for the amendments, but raised concern over the fact that details of the amendments had not been shared with the opposition lawmakers. Bilawal during the meeting pushed for the government to follow the parliamentary rules and regulations regarding amendments in the Army Act, party sources added. Earlier in the day, a delegation of PTI lawmakers, including Defence Minister Khattak, Leader of the House for the Senate ShibliFaraz and Senator Azam Swati, met PML-N leaders, where the latter assured their support for the proposed amendments. The PML-N delegation comprised KhawajaAsif, SardarAyazSadiq and RanaTanvir, among others. PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan, while talking to media, said that the party leadership in London has given the nod to support the amendments through consensus. The government is likely to introduce the amendment bill in parliament on Friday (tomorrow) after building a consensus with the opposition on the matter. The government needs the support of opposition parties to make the amendments as any amendment to the Constitution needs to be approved by at least two-thirds of the membership of each House – the National Assembly and Senate. According to a copy of the draft amendment bill obtained by DawnNewsTV, the government plans on making amendments to Sections 8, 176 and 176A of the Pakistan Army Act, 1952. A chapter dealing with the appointment of the army chief and the chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee will also be added to the Act. ‘Do not politicise matters of national interest’ Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information DrFirdousAshiqAwan, while addressing a press conference on Thursday, said matters of national interest should not be politicised. Awan said she was hopeful that the parliament would play its legal and constitutional role to “once and for all” settle an issue currently being discussed in the parliament. While the premier’s aide did not specify the issue being discussed, she appeared to be referring to legislation on the extension of COAS Bajwa’s tenure. “We all have a responsibility to Pakistan’s institutions, which are the guarantors of national well-being,” she said. Awan said that the parliament had been approached for a matter which falls under the executive domain of the prime minister. “God willing, with a consensus, we will settle this important issue and parliament will play a key role,” she said. Apparently comparing the issue of extension in Gen Bajwa’s tenure to the appointment of India’s army chief as the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Awan said in the “neighbouring country” (India) the defence minister had used the authority of the state’s executive branch for the appointment of the army chief as the CDS. “There (in India) you did not see any discussion or debate in the media and neither was this type of commotion created,” she added Indian Prime Minister NarendraModi’s handpicked Army Chief Gen BipinRawat was on Monday appointed as India’s first CDS. “Matters of national interest, connected to our national identity, should be devoid of politics and the tradition of politicising them in Pakistan should end,” the premier’s special aide said.