Pakistan's Senate passes bills to extend Gen Bajwa's tenure

Islamabad, Jan 8 (PTI) Pakistan's Parliament on Wednesday passed three crucial bills to give extension to Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa for three years after the Supreme Court pointed out irregularities in the manner the close confidant of Prime Minister Imran Khan was granted a fresh term.

The bills to extend the retirement age from 60 to 64 years for the chiefs of army, navy and air force, and the chairman of the joint chief of staff committee sailed through the Senate or the upper house despite protests from minor parties, Geo News said.

As soon as the bills were passed, Senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani adjourned the session. The Senate session lasted only 20 minutes and no other agenda other than the laying of a few reports was taken up, Dawn said.

Subsequently, Sanjrani forwarded the bills to the Senate standing committee for approval, which held an emergency meeting within minutes after adjournment of the Senate sitting and passed them unanimously, it said.

The bills were already approved by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence.

On Tuesday, the three bills - The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Bill 2020 - were passed easily by the National Assembly or the lower house of Parliament as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People Party (PPP) supported them.

All eyes are now on President Arif Alvi, whose signatures on the bills will formalise them into law, which will grant the prime minister the power to extend the tenure of any service chief.

Special Advisor to PM for Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan said that by passing the bills, political parties had 'shown political maturity' and had 'strengthened Pakistan and national interest'.

The 'nationalhood (sic), unity, national harmony' shown in the Upper House was proof that the nation unites whenever the country is faced with challenges, she told reporters.

Gen Bajwa, a close confidant of Imran Khan, was to retire on November 29 last year at the end of his three-year original term but the Prime Minister gave the 59-year-old Army chief another extension of the same length, citing the regional security situation through a notification on August 19.

However, the Supreme Court on November 28 suspended the government order, citing irregularities in the manner the army chief, a close confidant of Khan, was granted an extension. The apex court granted a six-month extension to Gen Bajwa after being assured by the government that Parliament will pass a legislation on the extension/reappointment of an Army chief within six months.

The powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 72 plus years of existence, has wielded considerable power in deciding matters concerning security and foreign policies.

Gen Bajwa was the second army chief to get full term extension in recent times. Earlier, Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani was given a full term in 2010.

Prime Minister Khan and Gen Bajwa have been working closely. Bajwa accompanied Khan on his maiden US visit during which he met US President Donald Trump at the White House.

Khan had also nominated Bajwa as a member of the National Development Council, in an unprecedented move.

When Bajwa was appointed army chief by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, he superseded three other generals. PTI ZH AKJ ZH ZH