ISLAMABAD: Nawaz Sharif as prime minister is appointing the third chief of army staff with the exclusion of interference or intrusion by any other authority.
When the 18th Amendment was undone by Nawaz Sharif government through the 19th Amendment in 1997, the prime minister became all-powerful to nominate the chiefs of the three armed forces and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
For the first time, Nawaz Sharif exercised this power when he picked Pervez Musharraf as the army chief in place of Jehangir Karamat, who had been made to quit after his controversial statement calling for establishment of a national security council.
Nawaz Sharif made the second appointment using his exclusive power when he selected Raheel Sharif in 2013. This is now the third time when he will name any time another army chief in place of Raheel Sharif.
Previously, he as prime minister had a little or no role in appointing the services chief as this power was the discretion of the president of Pakistan. An assertive president like Ghulam Ishaq Khan (GIK) never allowed premier (Nawaz Sharif) any say in such nominations.
Using this discretionary power, GIK had picked Abdul Waheed Kakar when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had some other preference, which the president had aggressively ignored.
Similarly, the premier again wanted to name some other lieutenant general as the army chief but the president had gone for Asif Nawaz Janjua, who died a natural death before completing his three-year tenure in January 1993.
Over Janjua’s nomination, the president and the prime minister had developed grave differences, which led to mutually destructive end – ouster of both as per a deal brokered by Gen Kakar. Before that GIK had dismissed the prime minister and the National Assembly, later to be restored by the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, the prime minister had also nominated a number of chiefs of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Pakistan Navy using his special powers.
In the seventies, the power to select armed forces chiefs was rested in the prime minister as per the 1973 Constitution that the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had prepared and got passed by Parliament.
General Ziaul Haq massively changed the Constitution and enacted a large number of laws. He had also given the discretionary powers to select the armed forces chiefs to himself meaning the president.
The Parliament that had come into being as a result of the 1985 non-party elections passed the 18th Amendment incorporating all the comprehensive constitutional changes and laws enforced by the martial law regime. This had rendered the prime minister a second fiddle.
Benazir Bhutto during her both tenures as prime minister and Nawaz Sharif during his first stint as premier remained helpless to take back the discretionary power from the president and rest them in the chief executive. However, both were always too anxious to trash this discriminatory authority to the president in the parliamentary system.
However, in his second tenure Nawaz Sharif showed courage and dispensed with the 18th amendment with the complete support of the opposition led by Benazir Bhutto.
During his extended rule, Pervez Musharraf again restored the president’s discretionary power to appoint armed forces chiefs, which, however, were scrapped through the 18th amendment passed in 2010 by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government with the full cooperation of the opposition – Nawaz Sharif.
In this connection, the heroic job was done by a 26-member parliamentary committee headed by Raza Rabbani, who is now the chairman of the Senate, which prepared an elaborate constitutional package of amendments that was later unanimously adopted by Parliament, largely restoring the 1973 Constitution to its original shape.
In the present constitutional arrangement, the president’s role in the appointment of the services chiefs is confined to just issuing notifications to the effect as per the decision taken by the prime minister. However, it is possible that given their extremely cordial relations and for belonging to the same political party, they might consult with each other before reaching any conclusion on the present army chief.
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