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Govt tables Army Act amendments bill in NA

Govt tables Army Act amendments bill in NA

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government on Friday tabled the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2020 in the National Assembly after being assured unequivocal support on the matter by the two main opposition parties.

The development came after a meeting of the PTI’s parliamentary committee, headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan, was held earlier today at the Parliament House to discuss the legislation.

According to the details, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak presented three bills in the lower house of the parliament today, including the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Act, 2020 and Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Act, 2020.

As per the agreed upon formula decided between the government and opposition parties, the Standing Committee on Defence will review the amendments before they are presented in both the houses of parliament for approval.

A meeting of the said committee, of which both the government and opposition lawmakers are members, is scheduled for later today.

Following the development, NA Speaker Asad Qaiser adjourned the house’s proceedings till 11am tomorrow (Saturday).

‘Extension necessary’
Prime Minister Imran Khan, in the parliamentary meeting earlier today, explained that the decision to grant an extension to General Qamar Javed Bajwa has been taken due to the prevailing national security situation.

He said that “the matter shouldn’t have been taken to the court,” but adding that “we respect the courts and don’t want clash with any institution.”

‘Unconditional support’
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has offered its “unconditional support” to the amendment, while all the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has asked for is that “the democratic legislative process must be followed.”

The amendment is expected to provide clarity on future extensions to the tenures of army chiefs. It also states that the matter of an army chief’s extension “shall not be called into question before any court on any ground whatsoever”.

What amendments are being made to the Army Act?
According to a copy of the bill available with Geo News, the army chief’s extension will not be challenge-able in any court of law in the future, if the bill sails through both the houses of parliament.

Under the clause 8B of the bill, the president, on the advice of the prime minister, may “reappoint the Chief of the Army Staff for additional tenure of three (03) years, on such terms and conditions, as may be determined by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister, in the national security interest or exigencies, from time to time”.

“Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or any other law, or any order or judgement of any Court, the appointment, reappointment or extension of the Chief of the Army Staff, or the exercise of discretion by the appointing authority in this regard, shall not be called into question before any court on any ground whatsoever,’ the bill states.

SC directs govt to legislate on COAS tenure
In November 2019, the apex court had asked the government to legislate on an extension in the COAS’s services within six months, allowing General Bajwa to stay in office until then, after briefly suspending the notification of the extension in his tenure.

Prior to that, PM Imran in August had approved the extension in the COAS’s services through an executive order. However, former chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa had in late November taken up a petition ‘in public interest’, challenging the extension in service of the COAS.

A three-member bench of the top court had heard the case.

In December, after the top court issued the detailed verdict in the COAS case, the government had filed a review petition in the SC, pleading the court to form a larger bench to hear the case, and requesting it to keep the proceedings in-camera.

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