ISLAMABAD: Seeking to take away prime minister’s powers to retain retiring services chiefs and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, three separate bills — the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Bill, and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Bill — were submitted to the senate secretariat on Monday.

An outspoken Jamaat-i-Islami senator Mushtaq Ahmad separately submitted notices in the office of senate secretary seeking to move amendments to the existing laws.

In January 2020, following unprecedented hitches to the proposed extension in the term of the then army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, the parliament had approved three bills that set a higher retirement age for the chiefs of the armed forces, allowing the prime minister to extend their terms at his discretion.

The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill seeks to amend the Pakistan Army Act, 1952 by omitting Sections 8B and 8E in the law. Similarly, the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Bill and Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Bill seek to amend the Pakistan Air Force Act, 1953 and Pakistan Navy Ordinance 1961 respectively by omitting different sections in these laws.

Three bills seeking amendments to legislation submitted to Senate

The statement of objects and reasons of the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill says that in the year 2020, the Pakistan Army Act was amended and provisions were inserted for extension in services of army chief and chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. “Keeping in view the meritorious appointment and promotion of young bold within the Pakistan Army leadership, the provisions related to the extension of these two offices are proposed for omission,” it added.

The statement of objects also underlines the role of Pakistan Army for giving services and sacrifices for the sake of safety and security of the country since its inception. “There is no denying the fact that the Pakistan Army has made us feel secure within the borders and tried their level best to combat existential threats, both conventional and non-conventional.”

The statement of objects and reasons of the other two bills also say that Pakistan Air Force Act and Pakistan Navy Ordinance were amended in 2020 for the re-appointment or extension in services of both air and naval chiefs. “Keeping in view the meritorious appointment and promotion of young blood within the Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy leadership, the provisions related to the extension and re-appointment of these two offices are proposed for emission, both the bills says.

Two days prior to the retirement date of Gen Bajwa on Nov 28, a legal crisis over his extension was focus of attention following suspension of his extension orders by the Supreme Court. This was the first such case in the judicial history of the country which has seen extension in army chief’s term in the past as well. Three months before Gen Bajwa’s three-year term was set to end, the then Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government — citing an emergency in the “regional security situation” — issued him a three-year extension beyond November.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2023

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