ISLAMABAD - A day after its passage from the National Assembly, the Senate Wednesday passed the bills empowering the prime minister to appoint, re-appoint and give extension to the tri-services chiefs and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee amid uproar of smaller opposition parties in the house.

The three draft bills quickly had a smooth sailing in a brief 22-minute long session of the opposition-dominated house due to the already announced support of opposition -- Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The lawmakers of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) also voted in favour of the draft laws.

The bills including the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Bill 2020, and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Bill 2020 would now go to the President Dr Arif Alvi to have his final but ceremonious signatures to become acts of the parliament.

The agenda of the house issued by the Senate Secretariat for Wednesday only contained the legislative business concerning the bills except only the motion to suspend the question hour session for the day.

As Defence Minister Pervez Khattak moved the bills for voting one after the other, the smaller opposition parties including National Party (NP), Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) and Jamaat-e-Isamli (JI) opposed the bills and launched a protest.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), another smaller opposition party in the house, abstained from voting and its two Senators including Talha Mahmood and Molvi Faiz Muhammad left the house soon after the first bill regarding amendment in the Pakistan Army Act 1952 was moved by the defence minister.

Amid pandemonium in the house due to the protest, Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani put the bills for a voice voting respectively after a clause by clause reading of the amendments, and the house passed them with majority vote.

Out of the present 103-member house, 90 lawmakers were present in the house, while 10 Senators remained absent and three were on leave. Out of the absent Senators, seven were of PML-N, two of PPP and one of JUI-F. PML-N Senators who remained absent were Pervaiz Rasheed, Chaudhry Tanveer Khan, Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qayyum, Musadik Masood Malik, Hafiz Abdul Karim, Dr Asad Ashraf, and Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasir. Two from PPP were former chairman Senate Raza Rabbani and Deputy Chairman Senate Salim Mandviwalla while Moulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri was from JUI-F.

The senators who were on leave included FATA lawmaker Hidayat Ullah, PMl-N Senator Dr Shaheen Khalik Butt and JI Senator Sirajul Haq.

NP Senator Dr Ashok Kumar voted in favour of the bills while violating his party’s directives.

The lone Awami National Party Senator Sitara Ayaz also voted in favour of the bills though her party had opposed them outside the parliament.

When the first bill was moved, JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmed in a loud voice said that he had not been invited to the Senate standing committee on defence that had already approved the bills in a hurriedly called session on Tuesday.

Though the chair didn’t give her the floor, he also said that he had submitted his amendments, seven in number, on the bills with the Senate Secretariat on Wednesday morning that had not been brought on the agenda of the house. “The house rules are being violated,” he added.

At least nine opposition lawmakers including four each of the NP and PKMAP and one of JI gathered in front of chairman Senate’s dais and tore down copies of the agenda. The two female senators of PKMAP were also part of the protest. All chanted slogans of “no, no, and shame, shame” when the voice voting in the house was underway.

PKMAP Senator Usman Kakar slammed the opposition parties for their support on the bills amid an uproar and said that they didn’t accept this NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance). While Senator Mushtaq sat down in front of the dais as a mark of protest.

Parliamentary Leader of PPP in the House Senator Sherry Rehman also rose from her chair and requested the chair that the opposition senators should be allowed to speak regarding their concerns. She also wanted to speak about the amendments already submitted by PPP regarding the bills but the chair did not give her floor saying that they themselves had passed the bills in the defence committee.

The session was adjourned immediately after the legislation process completed till Friday. After the sitting, the treasury lawmakers distributed sweets in the lobby and in the secretariat to celebrate the passage of bills.

The proposed amendments in the bills say that the president, on the advice of the prime minister, can specify tenure and terms and conditions of services of all three chiefs of staff — the army, the air and the naval — and CJCS. The amendments include the grant of extension and re-appointments of the services chiefs. The amendments also fix the age of the services chiefs at 64 years.

The amendments ensure that such appointments, re-appointments and extensions won’t be challenged before any court on any.