COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa being given guard of honour at Abbottabad. (ENNS file photo)
ISLAMABAD (ENNS/MD) In a rare move in the history of the country the Supreme Court (SC) here on Tuesday suspended the notification confirming the extension of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa for another three years.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa, during hearing on the withdrawal application of a petition challenging the extension of Gen Bajwa’s tenure, said that only the president can extend the tenure of the army chief.
The top judge rejected the application and took up the petition in public interest under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution, turning the petition into a suo motu notice.
“The prime minister does not have the power to extend the tenure of the army chief,” the chief justice remarked.
To this, the attorney general told the court, “Army chief’s tenure was extended after the president’s approval.”
“If the president approved the summary on August 19, then why did the prime minister gave the approval for the summary again on August 21,” CJP Khosa questioned.
“The prime minister signed the summary after the approval from the cabinet,” the attorney general responded.
“Did the president give approval again after the approval from the prime minister and cabinet?” CJP Khosa enquired.
“The initial approval is supposed to be given by the president,” he further said, adding that “the approval given by the president before the cabinet might not be according to the law.”
We can take the approval from the president again, the attorney general suggested.
“Only 11 members of the cabinet gave approval of the summary for the extension of army chief’s tenure. We cannot say the majority gave the approval,” the chief remarked.
“In a democracy, the decisions are made through the opinion of the majority. Those members who did not give an answer, we should wait for their answer. These members did not say ‘no’ either. Did the government assume that the answer of those who did not give an answer translates into ‘yes’?” the chief justice asked.
“The prime minister was told he did not have the power. Then it was found out that both the prime minister and the president did not have the power and the final decision rests with the cabinet and on August 21, the matter was sent to the cabinet,” CJP Khosa said.
The top judge also wondered why the notification referred to the extension as a re-appointment.
“The entire process was upside down. First, the cabinet should have given the approval, then the prime minister and president should have been advised,” he said.
The court then suspended the notification of the army chief’s extension and adjourned the hearing till the next day.
On August 19, Prime Minister Imran Khan had approved the extension of COAS Bajwa as the Chief of Army Staff.