Islamabad - In a major response to ‘one day’ suspension by the Supreme Court of service extension ‘notification’ relating to incumbent Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Tuesday, the Federal Cabinet unanimously decided to defend Prime Minister’s decision in the apex court today (Wednesday).

The Federal Cabinet which met with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair deliberated at length on suspension of the notification by the Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa and unanimously endorsed Prime Minister’s decision as his prerogative under article 243 of the constitution.

During the special meeting of the cabinet, Federal Minister for Law and Justice Barrister Farough Naseem voluntarily resigned from his important ministerial position to defend the Chief of Army Staff as his legal counsel in the Supreme Court. The prime minister approved his resignation.

Addressing a joint press conference after the Cabinet meeting, Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad and Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Accountability said the Cabinet reviewed the situation after the verdict of the Supreme Court regarding extension in the service of the Army Chief.

Shafqat Mahmood said the entire Cabinet including allied parties of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) expressed complete support to extension in service of the Army Chief.

Moreover, the Federal Cabinet he said has also approved new summary for the extension in the Army Chief’s tenure and sent it to President for approval.

He said that Cabinet has also approved amendment in the Rule 255 of Army regulation to assist the court.

Cabinet unanimously endorses PM’s decision as his prerogative

All-out support for extending Army Chief’s service expressed

Rule 255 of Army Regulations amended to assist the apex court

The Minister for Education said under article 243, it is Prime Minister’s prerogative to appoint services chiefs. Shafqat said Prime Minister has the prerogative to send advice to the President on the extension in service of the Chief of Army Staff and the Prime Minister gave advice to the President under the same prerogative and President gave the approval of extension.

He said it is also the prerogative of the Prime Minister to decide if there is need for extension due to special circumstances.

He said the Prime Minister sent advice to the President due to special prevailing circumstances as India for the first time had crossed LoC after Kargil and attacked Balakot area of Pakistan after 1971.

He said the serious tension and shelling on LoC, the curfew exceeding 100 days in Occupied Kashmir is also unusual development. He said there is also a risk of false-flag operation by India.

He said the constant threats emanating from across the border also indicate the special circumstances under which summary of extension was moved.

Speaking on the occasion, Sheikh Rashid said extension in service of Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa is need of the hour.

He said the Federal Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem has voluntarily tendered resignation from his position. He said Farogh Naseem will present the government’s stance in the court along with Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan on the issue.

Earlier Tuesday, the Supreme Court suspended a notification for extension/reappointment of the incumbent Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa for another term of three years.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa and comprising Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah conducted hearing of Jurists Foundation’s petition filed through advocate Riaz Hanif Rahi against extension in Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s tenure.

After hearing Attorney General for Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan, the chief justice remarked that points raised by the AGP call for a detailed examination of the matter of extension/re-appointment of General Bajwa as army chief. Therefore, the court made him party in this case and directed the office to carry out necessary addition in the memorandum of this petition.

The apex court issued notices to the federation through secretary Ministry of Defence, prime minister and president of Pakistan for today (Wednesday). The bench suspended operation of the impugned order/notification related to extension/re-appointment of General Bajwa for another term.

In August, Prime Minister Imran Khan had approved extension in the tenure of General Bajwa for another three years. “General Qamar Javed Bajwa is appointed Chief of Army Staff for another term of three years from the date of completion of current tenure,” said a notification issued by PM Imran Khan on 19th August.

The petitioner Hanif Rahi, through court-associate, submitted a handwritten application for withdrawal of his petition. However, the bench did not entertain it. Rahi was present in the courtroom when the case was called, but left quietly when the bench started hearing it.

The court noted that the petitioner neither appeared in person nor anybody else even Advocate On Record (AOR) appeared on his behalf. “The application received does not carry any date and the same is not accompanied by any affidavit. There is nothing before us to accept or to presume that the said application has actually been submitted by the petitioner himself or that he has submitted the same voluntarily,” said the four-page written order.

The court observed that the petitioner invoked Article 184(3) of the Constitution and the subject matter of it involves a question of public importance with reference to enforcement of fundamental rights and, thus, the individual capacity of the petitioner pales into insignificance even if he decides not to pursue the present petition.

AGP Anwar Mansoor, who was present in the courtroom, presented photocopies of many documents which led to an order passed by the president approving the summary sent by the prime minister along with his advice for extension/reappointment of General Qamar Javed Bajwa as COAS for a fresh term of three years in that office after expiry of his first term. The bench with the assistance of the attorney examined the said documents.

It noted that a summary had initially been moved by the Ministry of Defence for extension in the term of COAS’ tenure and subsequently he was appointed as chief of the army staff for a second term of three years after completion of his first term in that office. However, the attorney general failed to refer to any provision in any legal instrument regarding extension in service of a COAS upon completion of his first term in that office or for his reappointment to that office after completion of his first term.

The court noted that Prime Minister Imran Khan on 19th August himself had passed an order appointing General Bajwa as COAS for a second term in that office whereas under Article 243 of the Constitution it is the President who is the appointing authority for that office.

“Apparently that mistake came to notice straightaway and on the same day, (August 19) a summary was moved from the prime minister’s

office to the president for extension/re-appointment of the incumbent chief of the army staff and on that very day the president was pleased to approve the summary in that regard and, hence, the advice of the prime minister was apparently accepted and acted upon,” the court observed.

The chief justice said it appears that even that process was found to be flawed and on that very day it was realized that the prime minister or the president could not take that actions without approval of the cabinet, therefore, the following day (20th August) a summary was moved for approval of the cabinet and on 21st August the cabinet approved the proposal through circulation.

The attorney general produced photocopies of cabinet record, which showed that out of 25 cabinet members only 11 had agreed to the proposal which shows that majority of the cabinet had not approved the said proposal. The court noted that after the purported or so-called approval of the cabinet regarding extension/re-appointment of the incumbent COAS matter was never sent to prime minister or the president again for the purpose of a fresh advice or a fresh order of the prime minister and the president, respectively.

Upon repeated queries, AGP Mansoor referred to Regulation No. 255 of the Army Regulations (Rules) according to which retirement of an army officer could temporarily be suspended or limited. He maintained that under the said regulation the federal government had requisite authority to re-appoint or extend services of an incumbent COAS prior to his retirement if the exigencies of the service so require or the public interest so demands.

The court noted that a bare perusal of Regulation No. 255, however, prima facie showed that the said provision could be invoked after an officer has already retired from service and that is why the said regulation speaks of suspension of retirement or limiting of retirement.

Suspending a retirement or limiting a retirement before the retirement may amount to putting the cart before the horse. The attorney-general very candidly submitted that in the entire body of laws pertaining to the Pakistan Army there was no express provision available regarding re-appointment or extension in the service of a chief of the army staff.

However, the attorney general argued that purpose for the proposed re-appointment/extension in the term of office of the incumbent COAS was ‘regional security environment’. The chief justice questioned how the government perceived threats earlier for extension.

“The said words are quite vague and if at all there is any regional security threat then it is the gallant armed forces of the country as an institution which are to meet the said threat and an individual’s role in that regard may be minimal,” said the written order.

“If the said reason is held to be correct and valid then every person serving in the armed forces would claim re-appointment/extension in his service on the basis of the said reason,” it added.

Agencies add: If the extension is blocked by the court, General Bajwa’s term will end on Friday.

An Army spokesman declined to comment, but a Pakistani military source said the army was still confident Bajwa would be granted an extension. “The extension has been delayed only on a technicality and will be sorted out tomorrow,” he said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to publicly discuss the issue.