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November 30, 2019

Army chief’s extension/ appointment issue: Opposition parties stay away from the issue

Top Story

November 30, 2019

ISLAMABAD: All the major and smaller political parties got together in the anti-government opposition grouping exhibited restraint on the issue of extension/ reappointment of General Qamar Javed Bajwa as the Chief of the Army Staff by avoiding any adverse observation on it.

As a lot of hype persisted for three days when the Supreme Court heard the petition, not a single opposition politician commented on it. However, most of them did denounce the government’s actions meant to satisfy the highest judicial forum, dubbing them as sheer incompetence, which was repeatedly highlighted by the court, public circles and commentators.

The opposition parties let it to be a matter between the apex court and official legal brains. However, like everybody they anxiously waited for the outcome of the judicial proceedings with bated breath.

The opposition's deliberate strategy was a clear departure from the past when those having such political position had been jumping in the similar fracas to take mileage out of it and hurt their rivals.

When the nonstop proceedings were in progress in the Supreme Court, an all parties’ conference (APC), hosted by Jamiat Ulemae Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, was also held in the federal capital, but the huddle withheld its opinion on the row. No report suggested that it discussed the issue. Senior opposition leaders during their presser made no remarks on it.

However, a few weeks back, when Fazlur Rehman was asked about Bajwa’s extension, he had dismissed the question as inconsequential saying that it was a service matter of an officer and he would not talk about it.

After the Supreme Court resolved the matter by allowing Gen Bajwa to stay as the army chief for six months and leaving it to the government and parliament to do necessary legislation, the JUI-F chief said the new parliament coming in place as a result of the immediate fresh general elections should decide the issue of extension in the top commander’s tenure. “Although we respect the court’s order, this fake parliament does not have the right, the nation’s mandate and trust to legislate.”

Most of other opposition leaders are still cautious and have not commented on the issue of extension/ reappointment but have profusely spoken about the approach of certain government leaders in doing the requisite legislation.

On the other hand, cabinet members have expressed jubilation over the court decision and some of them have even provoked the opposition parties by saying that the grouping has no option but to vote for the proposed amendments which will specify the tenure of extension and reappointment, salary, perks, privileges and other related matters which are missing from both the Constitution and the relevant law that were recurrently pointed out by the Supreme Court during the hearings.

Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid’s remark that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will vote for the proposed amendments with “folded hands” especially irked the opposition parties. Some of their leaders, referring to his comment, said that such ministers are playing the role of spoilers and trying to harm future talks.

Dr Farogh Naseem, who was sworn in as the federal law minister again on Friday, said that the opposition parties would commit contempt of court if they did not back the approval of the amendments in the parliament, ordered by the apex court.

“We can’t be forced to back any change, and it will be our decision whether to support it or not,” senior Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said.

Commenting on Naseem’s “threat”, he said that no MP can be compelled to vote for any amendment. However, it is clear that the apex court has left it to the government and parliament to fill up the gaps in the Constitution and law, he said and added that not only the PPP but also the opposition parties would take a stand on the proposed changes when the government will unfold them.

A tall talk is going on by a set of federal ministers when they know it well that the ruling alliance has no majority to pass any legislation in the parliament.