Have to report at the outset that hardly a few hours before commencement of the national assembly sitting Monday, its Standing Committee on Defence had to meet for another time.

On Friday last week, it had also held a meeting. At the end of it, we were made to believe that the draft of a law, proposed to regulate appointments of Services’ Chief had “unanimously” been adopted there.

The reportedly “approved” draft was later set to be passed by the national assembly, the day after. Fairly late in the day, however, some legal eagles of the government realized that “due procedure” was not employed for holding the Friday meeting of the Standing Committee on Defence; a Parliamentary Secretary, Jamil Ahmad, had presided it, while the rules enjoined that Chairman of the Standing Committee, Dr Amjad Niazi, should have chaired it.

The national assembly sitting, which was summoned on Saturday morning had to be deferred until Monday through a hasty and late night notification, therefore. The Monday meeting of the Standing Committee on Defence was essentially held to undo the procedural error.

After casually glancing through the government-proposed draft of a bill that the Supreme Court had asked for, to regulate appointments of the Services’ Chiefs, the Standing Committee on Defence had approved it for another time, that too unanimously. The national assembly is now set to adopt the approved draft as a formal law Tuesday.

Sources, one can trust, revealed that during the Monday meeting of the Standing Committee, some PPP representative made a feeble attempt to make the government realize that the law it had prepared to execute Supreme Court’s directions on a highly serious and sensitive matter, was still loaded with lacunas.

The same representatives also suggested that before extending the term of any Service Chief, the Prime Minister should appear before a Parliamentary Committee to justify his decision.

Most participants, representing the government and the PML-N, however, believed that to do this, our parliament needed a Constitutional Amendment instead of a simple Act of Parliament. “Consensus” was thus developed for approving the government-proposed law, as it had originally been drafted.

Most parliamentary reporters were still not anticipating “smooth sailings” Tuesday. They insist that some hawkish PML-N backbenchers remain shy to “rubber stamp” the government-proposed law for regulating appointments of Services’ Chiefs and their tenure-related issues. They were reportedly trying to approach the PPP leader, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, to persuade him to do something substantive to prevent the feel of “rubber stamping” of a government proposed law, when it would be presented before the national assembly Tuesday.

Rumours were also rife in parliamentary corridors that Shahid Khakan Abbassi, a former Prime Minister and a high profile PML-N leader, might also avail the facility of attending the national assembly sitting, thanks to the production order, in spite of being in NAB’s custody these days.

He reportedly wanted to “express strong reservations” regarding the government-proposed bill, “from the floor of the national assembly”. To meet the deadline for this column, I could not spare time to wait for Abbassi’s expected arrival to Parliament House or double check with PPP sources.

Even otherwise, I prefer to strongly suspect that hawk-sounding backbenchers of the PML-N and the PPP were simply spinning self-defending stories while privately bickering before reporters they could trust. At least the national assembly to me seems all set for extending a quick approval of the government-proposed law, without much ado.

Having said this, one has to admit that the government-proposed law certainly seems laden with lacunas. The Supreme Court had clearly asked for “certainty and predictability,” when it comes to appointments of Services’ Chiefs and extend their tenures, if the Prime Minister so desired. The government-proposed law does not seem delivering, clearly, on those counts.

The government-proposed law surely states that the law dealing with the issue of appointments of Services’ Chiefs and extensions in their tenures, if the need be, could not be questioned in any court of law. You can’t be sure about this aspect as well, in this day and age of judicial activism.

After all, no parliamentarian or a political party had opposed, at least publicly, when Prime Minister Imran Khan announced to grant a 3-year extension in the term of current Army Chief in August 2018. In November of the same year, however, a person with dubious reputation approached the Supreme Court to question the said extension.

Too close to his retirement, the former Chief Justice, Asif Saeed Khosa, preferred to hear this petition on a fast track. Doing this, he triggered a flood of speculations that kept preparing us for a massive showdown between the Judiciary and the Executive. The history has the habit of repeating itself in our excitement-starved country. People, assigned to draft laws for the government should act doubly prudent, therefore.

But top leaders of the PML-N, especially the Sharif family, are overcommitted to facilitate the government in smooth passage of the law that the Supreme Court had asked for, to furnish legal cover to an already announced extension. They are in desperate haste to deliver on the promise. They rather want to “get it over with”, ASAP, to stop bickering among its backbenchers and diehard supporters, perceiving these leaders as the ultimate icons for the so-called cause of “civil supremacy.” Things do not look radically different for the PPP leaders as well.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the foreign minister, especially came to the Senate “to brief” the Upper House of Parliament, regarding the recent spate of frightening developments in the Middle East. He, however, is in the habit of telling stories that signify nothing in spite of being unbearably long and pompous. After keenly listening to his lengthy speech, I miserably failed to find a point that deserved elaboration or deeply thought-out comments.

In passing, however, the foreign minister did pass some remarks that forced me to suspect that after the killing of an iconic Commander of Iran by the US drones in Iraq, the Trump Administration might not be so keen to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, by resuming dialogue with Taliban. The process of seeking the “lasting peace” in Afghanistan, it seems, has been put on a hold. Sincerely wish, though, that I were wrong to presume this.