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Wednesday 22, January 2020
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Limits on tenure

THE Pakistan army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, is in an uncomfortable position. In an unexpected development, his country’s Supreme Court is examining, in unflattering detail, the grounds cited by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government that seeks to extend the General’s term for another three years.

THE Pakistan army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, is in an uncomfortable position. In an unexpected development, his country’s Supreme Court is examining, in unflattering detail, the grounds cited by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government that seeks to extend the General’s term for another three years. In doing so, the court has stepped in to stem the rot wherein every Pakistan army chief in the past two decades had sought and secured an extension. A notable exception was Gen Raheel Sharif, who announced 10 months before his retirement that he would not be seeking an extension. 

Such was the importance of granting General Bajwa the extension that federal law minister Farogh Naseem resigned as minister to enable him to argue before the Supreme Court in the case personally. The 60-year-old General is widely seen as the pillar of power behind the Prime Minister. He also has a dubious reputation of fomenting terrorist activities. A judicial review of his extension has thrown light on the slipshod manner in which the Imran Khan government had moved to ensure the continuation of its benefactor. It also reflects opposition to the misadventures of what is often called the ‘Miltablishment’. The usurping of political, administrative and judicial wings of the state by the military establishment is rightly seen as an impediment to the growth of Pakistan as a nation. In this instance, the assertion of judicial authority, at the cost of challenging a hitherto sacrosanct entity, is a positive development. 

The announcement of awarding an extension in service to General Bajwa had provoked a sharp reaction from the Opposition, including the Pakistan Peoples Party. Ironically, the party had extended the term of General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani during its tenure. Even as political legitimacy slips for the Imran Khan regime, the specious grounds of  the ‘changing regional situation in Afghanistan and India’ are now being pushed. A country long battered by ad hocism would be well advised to seek stability in institutional norms and rules. What the Supreme Court does, thus, matters not only to Pakistan, but also to the world at large.

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