Cabinet approves amendments to Army Act

Published: January 1, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to the Army Act, 1952 setting the retirement age of the chief of army staff (COAS) at 64 years and empowering the prime minister to extend his tenures by three years. The same rules will apply to the chairman joint chiefs of staff committee (CJCSC).

The cabinet unanimously gave the nod of approval at an “emergency” meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The development came over a month after the apex court had given the government six months to set the tenure and other service terms of a COAS through an act of parliament.

Wednesday’s move has caught many by surprise as only a few days ago the government had challenged the Supreme Court’s judgment on the COAS extension/reappointment maintaining that there were “legal and constitutional faults” in it.

The cabinet meeting approved the draft of an amendment bill, which proposed changes to Section 172 of the Army Act 1952.

Speaking to the media, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak confirmed that the cabinet had unanimously approved the amendments to the law. The bill defines the service period of the COAS and the CJCSC and lays out the procedure for an extension in their tenures.

The government has decided to table the bill in parliament on Friday (tomorrow) after taking the opposition on board.

The cabinet also formed a committee, comprising Khattak, MNA Amir Dogar, Federal Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Swati and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan to reach out to the opposition for support on the bill.

On Nov 26, the Supreme Court headed by then-CJP Asif Saeed Khosa had suspended the government’s notification of Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s extension until Nov 2022 citing procedural loopholes.

Premier Imran had recommended a three-year extension in the tenure of COAS Gen Qamar citing a worsening security situation in the region over its rivalry with India.

On Nov 28, after tumultuous three days of gruelling court proceedings, clerical gaffes and legal lacunae, the apex court granted a temporary six-month extension to Gen Qamar’s tenure, which was due to end at midnight on the same day, with the direction that the government must pass legislation through parliament in that time to clarify the section of Constitution governing the armed forces.

The Supreme Court cited a series of irregularities and ordered the government and the army to produce legal provisions and detailed arguments on the reasoning behind the extension.

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