The Pakistan government is planning to amend the Army Act of 1952 to have greater authority over the appointment and retention of the Army chief, the defence minister has said, days ahead of the scheduled retirement of General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Defence Minister Khawaja M Asif on Wednesday confirmed the government's plan but expressed his disapproval over the 'media hype' over it.
He said the government is not considering any major changes to the Pakistan Army Act (PAA).
Asif said that the proposed amendments package was required as per the Supreme Court verdict of 2019, which had called for legislating on the tenures of the services chiefs.
However, he seemed non-committal about the scope of the amendments and the timeline for legislation, saying that no major changes in the army act were being considered and whatever amendments were to be carried out, would be done in "due course", reported the Dawn newspaper.
Gen Bajwa, 61, who is on a three-year extension, is set to retire on November 29.
Taking to Twitter, the minister wrote, "Media hype over amendments in Pakistan Army Act is uncalled for. The government is not considering any major changes in the said Act. SCP had demanded a review of relevant clauses of PAA in its judgement in CP 39/2019 which shall be complied with in due course." According to the proposed amendment in Section 176 titled 'Power to make rules', sub-section (2-a), in clause (a) of the PAA, the word 'retention' shall be inserted after 'reappointment' in the current text of the law, while the word 'resignation' would be inserted after the word 'release'.
The amendment was originally proposed by General Headquarters, as per the Defence Ministry's Summary for the Cabinet Committee for the disposal of Legislation Cases (CCLC) and, on the face of it, seems to be meant to achieve the goal of getting Gen Bajwa to continue, the report said.
The planned amendment of the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) 1952 is expected to empower the Prime Minister to retain an incumbent Army chief with a simple notification rather than through a complex constitutional process which also requires the President's assent The proposed changes were approved by the Ministry of Defence last month and were set to land in a November 11 meeting of the Cabinet Committee for Disposal of Legislative Cases (CCLC) but were cancelled for unknown reasons.
A retired defence officer who wished to remain anonymous told the Dawn that the plan to 'retain' seemed to be meant for none other than the incumbent army chief.
The opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's chairman Imran Khan who had earlier shown keen interest in the appointment of the new chief of Army staff (COAS) has appeared to have taken a backseat and has stated that he has no issues with the Shehbaz government appointing the new army chief.
Meanwhile, Gen Bajwa has begun paying his farewell visits to various formations as per the tradition. Yesterday he visited Malir Garrison in Karachi.
He and Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Army's media wing, have maintained that he would retire at the end of his tenure and will not be seeking another extension in his tenure.
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