A petition was filed in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Saturday night, asking the court to restrain Prime Minister Imran Khan from de-notifying General Qamar Jawed Bajwa as the chief of army staff (COAS).
IHC staff had opened the court and there was activity at the premises prior to midnight, Dawn correspondent inside courtroom number 1 confirmed.
Eventually, no proceedings took place at the court and a few minutes past midnight Imran Khan was removed from office through a no-trust vote. His ministers, however, vehemently denied having any plans to remove the army chief.
The petition, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, was filed by Advocate Adnan Iqbal under Article 199 of the Constitution and mentioned the Federation of Pakistan, Government of Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Dr Arif Alvi, Ministry of Law and the secretary of the Ministry of Defence as respondents.
Iqbal said he was filing the petition to "uphold the enforcement and mandatory constitutional provision with regard to identification of term" of the COAS.
The petition was a pre-emptive measure to restrain the premier from "using his arbitrary power" to recommend the army chief's approval before the expiry of his term for "personal and political motive".
No such notification was issued by the prime minister.
The petition raised a number of questions: whether the approval of the cabinet was obtained for the issuance of any such supposed notification; whether the prime minister had "unfettered powers" to remove the COAS when he had recommended his appointment and in the "absence of any cogent reason for altering the earlier recommendation"; and lastly whether the premier could remove the army chief for "furtherance of political interests".
It also drew the attention of the court towards the observations of the Supreme Court during suo motu hearings of the National Assembly's dissolution and its verdict on Thursday whereby it said that any order passed by the prime minister or president would be subject to the order of the apex court.
The petition requested the court to declare the notification as "illegal, insignificant and void", that it was issued with "malafide intention" and to suspend any operations arising from it.
Govt issues strong denial
Meanwhile, federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry denied that the government had taken any step to remove the army chief, terming such reports "baseless".
"The government fully understands the importance of the army chief and Pakistan Army as an institution. Reports that anyone is even thinking of changing the leadership of Pakistan Army are baseless rumours and lies. This is being done under an agenda. The government condemns these rumours and completely denies them," the minister wrote on Twitter.
The development followed a lengthy impasse over a no-confidence motion to oust the premier as the National Assembly was adjourned four times before the vote was finally held around midnight.
Last year, reports had surfaced of an alleged standoff between the military and the government over the appointment of Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum as the new chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (IS).
The army had announced on Oct 6, 2021 that the former ISI chief, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, had been appointed the Peshawar corps commander, while Lt Gen Anjum was appointed in his place. But the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had not issued an official notification of Lt Gen Anjum's appointment until three weeks later, leading to frenzied speculation of strains in civil-military relations.
After days of uncertainty, on Oct 12, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had said that the authority to appoint the ISI chief lay with the prime minister, and that the set procedure would be followed for the purpose.
On Oct 19, Chaudhry had denied reports that a new summary with names of candidates for the office of ISI chief had been sent to the PMO. He had said that “all issues” between the civil and military leadership had been settled and a notification of the new ISI director general would be issued during that week.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid had said much the same on Oct 16 that the issue of the appointment had been amicably settled between the civil and military leadership and the spymaster would be appointed before the next Friday. However, when contacted about the matter later, he had simply said: “I know nothing about it.”
Sources had said at the time that the prime minister was likely to issue a notification for the appointment of the spymaster on Oct 22, before his departure to Saudi Arabia on a three-day official visit. “Most probably the notification will be issued on Friday,” a senior cabinet member told Dawn on condition of anonymity.
The sources said Lt Gen Anjum, who was previously serving as the corps commander for Karachi, had called on the prime minister on Oct 20.
The Prime Minister's Office had eventually notified the appointment of Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum as the new chief of ISI on Oct 26.
According to experts in defence matters, the procedure for appointment of the ISI director general is neither mentioned in the Constitution nor the Army Act, and all previous appointments were made as per traditions under which the army chief proposes three names to the prime minister who then makes the final decision.