ISLAMABAD - Major opposition parties, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the Pakistan People’s Party, yesterday gave a go-ahead to the government to amend the Army Act - in a clear message that the nation was united to back the Armed Forces.

The PML-N openly announced the decision to support the move but the PPP gave a veiled message. PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said legislation and the democratic process was very important.

Earlier, the government requested the Supreme Court to form a five-member larger bench in case pertaining to Army Chief’s extension.

The top court had allowed extension/reappointment of Army Chief for another six months and asked the government to determine the tenure, terms and conditions of the service of the Army Chief through legislation within the period.

The PML-N parliamentary committee decided to back federal government’s Army Act amendment bill in National Assembly to grant extension in service to the Army Chief.

The senior leadership of PML-N had directed its members of National Assembly to approve the bill with consensus.

The decision came after government delegation headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak held a meeting with PML-N leaders and sought their support on Army Act amendment bill.

The committee comprising Pervez Khattak, Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Senator Azam Swati and Leader of the House in Senate Syed Shibli Faraz discussed the matter with PML-N’s Khawaja Asif, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Rana Tanvir and others at opposition’s chamber.

The cabinet had already proposed a three-year extension in the tenure of all military chiefs – Army, Navy and the Air Force.

The retirement age of three armed forces will be 64 years. The proposed bill stated that the Prime Minister of Pakistan can advise an extension in the tenure of any service chief.

Separately yesterday, a three-member government delegation met Bilawal at his residence here.

The delegation was led by Pervez Khattak and included Qasim Suri and Ali Mohammad Khan. The government delegation briefed the PPP Chairman about the legislation regarding Army Act.

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Sherry Rehman, Raza Rabbani, Shazia Marri ans Naveed Qamar were also present on the occasion.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed “concern” that in the legislation about Army Act, parliamentary rules and regulations are not being followed and he asked the government’s delegation to act according to parliamentary rules and regulations.

On one of the social media accounts, the PPP Chairman in a message said that “Government Committee arrived at Zardari House to discuss upcoming legislation.

“The Peoples Party wants to positively engage with the democratic legislative process. Some parties seem to sidestep the legislative process. The more important the legislation the more important it is for us to follow the democratic process. PPP will take this up with other political parties as well,” he added.

The legislation to amend the Army Act will have far-reaching consequences for the politics.

Bilawal has previously set a condition for support to the legislation seeking Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resignation. The PML-N also had shown no hints in the past of helping the government.

Govt contacts JUI-F

INP adds: The government has also contacted the leadership of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) to seek support for the draft bill for amendment in Army Act.

Sources said that the government on Thursday contacted JUI-F seeking its support over the amendment in the Army Act.