ISLAMABAD – The Pakistan government on Thursday filed a review petition against the Supreme Court’s decision about legislation on the extension of service of Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
A three-member apex court bench headed by then chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa on November 28 granted a six-month extension to Gen Bajwa after being assured by the government that Parliament will pass a legislation on the extension/reappointment of an army chief within six months.
The ruling came in the nick of time as Gen Bajwa, 59, was set to retire at midnight on November 28.
In the review petition filed by Attorney General Anwar Mansoor, the government has urged the apex court to form a larger bench to hear the case and set aside the earlier judgment. It also requested the court to keep the proceedings in-camera.
Firdous Ashiq Awan, the Special Advisor to the Prime Minister for Information and Broadcasting, said the review petition was filed “because our legal team thoroughly, comprehensively, and closely reviewed all aspects of the decision and concluded that there are several legal gaps in the verdict.
“With due respect to the judiciary, the government wants rectification of the faults and thus decided to file the review petition,” she said, adding that the review petition is being filed ultimately in the higher public interest.
Awan told the media that the option of legislation through the parliament was intact even after filing the review petition.
The petition argues that the apex court’s verdict did not take into account “important constitutional and legal” points. It says the court has itself “been giving extensions to additional and ad-hoc judges”, making a case for the government to exercise this discretion as well, the Geo News reported.
Furthermore, the petition argues that the court did not base its decision on the judgement in the judges extension case.
In its detailed judgement on December 16, the chief justice cautioned the government that “unbridled power or position, like unstructured discretion, is dangerous”.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had extended Gen Bajwa’s tenure through a notification in August, but the Supreme Court suspended it on November 26 due to irregularities in the manner of extension.
After three days of heightened uncertainty, Chief Justice Khosa announced that Bajwa would remain the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) for another six months during which the country’s Parliament would legislate on the Pakistan Army chief’s extension/reappointment.
Justice Khosa in his judgement note said “it has been a shocking revelation to us that the terms and conditions of service of the COAS, the tenure of his office, extension in the tenure of his office or his reappointment have remained unregulated by any law so far.”
The court observed that no law was present in the country to regulate the appointment, reappointment, extension and tenure of a four star general who is also the army chief.
The verdict also said that there was “legal vacuum” and it could only be bridged by an Act of the Parliament which should be done within six months.
However, the court warned that in the absence of legislation on the matter within six months, the institutional practice of retirement of a General on completion of the tenure of three years “shall stand enforced”.
Exercising judicial restraint, the court said it was giving an opportunity to the federal government to carry out appropriate legislation through an Act of Parliament within a period of six months on the COAS.
The unprecedented action by the apex court shook the high echelons of power.
The powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70 plus years of existence, has wielded considerable power in deciding matters concerning security and foreign policies.
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