The federal cabinet on Tuesday amended the Army Regulations (Rules) to include a provision for an "extension in tenure" of the army chief, Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood announced.
Addressing a press conference after a meeting of the cabinet, Mehmood said the Supreme Court, while taking up a case regarding Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa's tenure extension, had today observed that the Army Regulations did not have a provision for an "extension" in the army chief's tenure.
He said that in order to "assist the court and clear matters", the cabinet today amended Rule 255 of the Army Regulations. Besides "suspension of retirement" and "limitation of retirement", Rule 255 will now also contain "extension in tenure" of the army chief, he said.
According to the minister, the amendment is in line with the prime minister's intention to grant an extension to Gen Bajwa.
The cabinet gave its consent to alter the summary for the army chief's reappointment in light of the amendment in the Army Regulations. The old summary will be withdrawn and a new summary will be sent to the prime minister, Mehmood said.
Law minister resigns
In another major development, Federal Law Minister Farogh Naseem resigned from his position.
Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed told the news conference that Prime Minister Imran Khan has accepted Naseem's resignation which was tendered during the cabinet meeting.
According to Rasheed, Naseem has resigned because he will appear in the Supreme Court tomorrow in the hearing regarding Gen Bajwa's tenure extension. He will be accompanied at the court by the attorney general of Pakistan.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said Naseem has "voluntarily" resigned from his office because he could not represent the government in the case being a federal minister. He will now join the attorney general to clarify the government stance on the issue of the army chief's tenure extension.
Once the assistance is completed, Naseem can return to the cabinet subject to the prime minister's approval, Akbar said.
Naseem belongs to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a coalition partner of the ruling PTI.
The announcements come hours after Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa suspended the government's notification of the army chief's tenure extension until the top court's hearing tomorrow.
The chief justice observed that "the summary and approval of army chief's extension is not correct."
The court issued notices to the defence ministry, federal government and Gen Bajwa, who is due to retire on November 29 (Friday).
On August 19, Prime Minister Imran had approved an extension in the tenure of Gen Bajwa for another three years.
Mehmood said Article 243 of the Constitution gives the prime minister the authority to advise the president regarding appointments of services chiefs, including the army chief.
The same procedure was followed for Gen Bajwa's appointment after extending his tenure, he said.
According to the minister, it is also the premier's prerogative to decide whether the prevailing conditions merit giving an extension to the army chief.
He said the decision for Gen Bajwa's extension was taken in view of "extraordinary circumstances" in the region, and cited India's move to attack Balakot by crossing the Line of Control earlier this year in this regard. In addition, he said, there is increased firing at the LoC, India has imposed an indefinite curfew in occupied Kashmir, there is fear of a "false-flag operation" being staged by India and India has threatened to block Pakistan's water.
Besides the regional situation, the prime minister's decision was influenced by the need to maintain continuity in the army command and Gen Bajwa's services to the nation.
Cabinet endorses PM's decision
Railways Minister Rasheed said the entire cabinet today endorsed Prime Minister Imran's decision to approve an extension in Gen Bajwa's tenure.
He also appeared to respond to Chief Justice Khosa's observation that out of 25 cabinet members, only 11 had approved the extension. "Fourteen members of the cabinet did not give any opinion due to non-availability," Justice Khosa had said. "Did the government take their silence as agreement?"
Rasheed said the rules and procedure of the cabinet were very clear that if a member does not say 'no' to a summary shared through circulation, then their opinion is taken as "positive".