Pakistani newspapers today censured Prime Minister Imran Khan's government for its "inept" handling of the sensitive case of extending the term of the army chief and cautioned him that the confidence of the people in his administration stands at an "all-time low".
The Supreme Court gave General Qamar Javed Bajwa a reprieve on Thursday and allowed him to continue as the Chief of the Army Staff for six more months after posing tough questions to the government about the most powerful institution in the coup-prone country.
Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who headed a three-member bench, announced the landmark verdict after getting an assurance from the government that Parliament will pass a legislation on the extension reappointment of an Army chief within six months.
After three days of high drama, the system found a solution and a potential impasse was averted, Dawn newspaper said in an editorial.
The verdict was announced after the government submitted a new "summary" to extend the service of 59-year-old Gen Bajwa. The ruling came in the nick of time as Gen Bajwa was set to retire at midnight Thursday.
"The court order has helped the government come out of the corner it had painted itself into by its inept handling of the issue. The government is chiefly to blame for this needless confusion and controversy over a sensitive matter," it commented on the Khan-led government that has been in office for over one year now.
"It is therefore disappointing to note the prime minister's tweets blaming foreign enemies and domestic 'mafia' whereas the real culprit is the government''s own legal team that was unable to write a notification that could withstand judicial scrutiny," the editorial said.
Given the central role played by army chiefs in Pakistan, and their crucial position within the state structure, Parliament must come up with legislation that stands the test of time, it said.
"The sheer incompetence of the government and the mistakes it made, like racing through the original notification and appearing unclear about the provisions of the Army Act and Army Rules, did not help win it much credibility," an editorial in The News International said.
"In an environment in which we as citizens have learned to accept without question all decisions, particularly when it comes to powerful institutions, this case acquires historic significance," it noted.
Till now, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has shown little interest in Parliament. This may have to change if it is to meet the court's condition of drafting and passing a new law within the next six months, it said.
The paper also noted that prime minister Imran Khan's tweet on Thursday, attacking the Opposition once again, is certainly not good politics at a time when their cooperation will be required.
The Nation's editorial pointed out that the Supreme Court has showed a way out of the mess the bumbling PTI government has created for itself.
"It is incomprehensible that a notification regarding the extension of the tenure of the Chief of Army Staff, possibly the most important document of its day, found itself subject to amateurish butchery," the paper said.
The top court noted that in the three days of court proceedings, the government kept changing its stance, interchangeably "referring to it as reappointment, limiting of retirement or extension of tenure".
The editorial said the "people of Pakistan were left marvelling at a botched operation, the likes of which we have never seen before."
"Confidence in the government rightly stands at an all-time low, and if this episode displays their maximum competence, then one worries greatly of their ability to understand matters of national security at all," it said.
The newspaper also criticised Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician, for his tweets soon after the Supreme Court allowed Gen Bajwa to continue in office for six more months.
"What added to the triumph of absolute incapability in the government; was a tweet by the Prime Minister himself, where he once again repeated an incomprehensible mumbo jumbo about a "mafia" and "looted wealth" being responsible for the state of affairs," The Nation commented.
"Mercifully, we are out of the crisis - at least for now," an editorial in The Express Tribune said.
It must have been a revelation for many - even lawmakers and law experts - that the Constitution does not carry a single provision to support an extension in the tenure of the country''s top soldier, the paper said.
Business Recorder in an editorial emphasised that had the Supreme Court chosen to, it could have created even more embarrassment for the government and the army.
"Leaning on the side of caution so as not to make matters worse and possibly create a constitutional/political crisis, the Supreme Court wisely chose a middle path that helped extricate the fumbling government from the self-created maze it seemed trapped in and avoided any vacuum of leadership in the army," it said.
Now the ball is in the government''s court. How it proceeds from here on in this sensitive matter could either salvage something from the wreckage of its foolish and incompetent performance or reinforce the image of it being not quite up to the task of governance, the leading business newspaper commented.