• Sat. Jan 28th, 2023

Abbasi calls for repealing amendment that allowed extension to ex-COAS Bajwa

Senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi talking to media persons outside in Islamabad on March 8, 2022. — Online
Senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi talking to media persons outside in Islamabad on March 8, 2022. — Online 
  • PML-N leader speaks against extension’s legislation.
  • Abbasi deems tenure extension to ex-COAS “mistake”.
  • “Amendments can’t be made by one party,” politician says.

Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) senior leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Saturday called for repealing the amendment to the Army Act 1952 that allowed a term’s extension to ex-army chief General (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa.

“The extraordinary process of the extension’s legislation has been made routine,” the former prime minister said during an interview with a private television, highlighting that it shouldn’t have been done.

Abbasi also deemed the tenure extension granted to former chief of army staff Gen (retd) Bajwa through the Army Act 1952 in January 2020 a “mistake“.

Gen (retd) Bajwa was due to retire on November 29, 2019, at the end of his stipulated term, but was given a three-year extension in service by the then prime minister Imran Khan on August 19, 2019.

On November 28, 2019, the Supreme Court suspended the government order, observing there was no law to extend an army chief’s tenure.

However, the apex court granted a six-month extension to General (retd) Bajwa after being assured by the government that parliament would pass legislation on the extension/reappointment of an army chief within six months.

The notification extending General (retd) Bajwa’s tenure was finally issued on January 28, 2020, after the parliament passed a law to settle the issue pertaining to the extension of the army chief’s tenure.

The senior PML-N leader commented on the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2020, and said that he considered the amendment “a mistake from day one”.

According to the amendment in the act, a serving army chief can be re-appointed for a three-year term, and the appointment can’t be challenged in any court of law in the future.

The former prime minister added that the extension was “already granted and the ex-COAS had already accepted it when the legislation was enacted”.

“At the time, it was not in the country’s interest to not legislate for the extension. But now, the amendment — authorising the prime minister to grant an extension — should be repealed,” he said.

He added that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief and then-prime minister Imran Khan extended the former army chief’s tenure in August 2019 — three months ahead of his retirement.

“Then-prime minister — Imran Khan — gave an extension without consulting [anyone]. Amending the law after the extension was a mistake,” the senior PML-N leader said.

“Amendments can’t be made by one party. There should be a consensus among all parties,” he said. The decision, Abbasi said, should have been taken in November 2019 and that Khan made it in haste. “The military itself will demand repealing the amendment.”

Speaking about the former army chief’s interference in politics, Abbasi said: “Playing politics in the country was neither Bajwa sahib’s responsibility nor Imran [Khan] sahib’s.”

“If you were to play politics, then the country’s situation would have surely been the same as today,” the PML-N leader noted. The former prime minister said it is important to present the truth and suggested forming a “truth commission”.

“Facts of the matters are bitter. A truth commission should be formed to bring the truth before the public,” Abbasi said. He also insisted that politics is not antagonism and that everyone’s goal is to correct the country’s conditions.

“When the establishment meddles with the country’s affairs, the results are not good. Lessons should be learnt from the past outcomes of interventions,” he said, adding that interference in national affairs was done in various ways and damaged relations.

Abbasi said the institutions should stay within the limits laid down in the constitution, adding that the transgression of law and constitution leads to problems in the country.

‘Pakistan should learn lessons from past’

Responding to a question, the PML-N leader said that Afghanistan is an independent country, adding that Islamabad and Kabul have longstanding and historic fraternal relations.

“We should keep relations with Afghanistan as an independent country,” he added. The former prime minister said Pakistan should learn lessons from the past, adding that negotiation and dialogues go side-by-side.

Without naming Afghanistan, the PML-N leader said that the county should take action whose soil is used against any other country.

The former prime minister said that trade with India would not be possible till New Delhi restores the special status of illegally occupied Kashmir.

Stressing the need for giving priority to the national interest over political, Abbasi said that the coalition government wanted to procure oil, gas and electricity from Russia.

He reiterated that former prime minister Khan went back on the deal with International Monetary Fund (IMF), adding that Pakistan would have defaulted if the PML-N government had not jumped to “save the country”.

“Difficult decisions are made in the interest of the country but not of the IMF,” he added. The mistakes made by Khan during the past four years could not be fixed in just one year, said Abbasi.

“A long span of time is required to restore the country’s economy,” he added.

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