Islamabad, Nov 28 (PTI) A much-relieved Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday lauded the Supreme Court for allowing General Qamar Javed Bajwa to continue as Pakistan Army chief for another six months even as he took a jibe at the country's 'external enemies' and the 'mafias within', saying the verdict must be of 'special disappointment' to them.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa approved a conditional extension in Chief of the Army Staff General Bajwa's tenure for an additional six months.
The top court's ruling comes in the nick of time as Gen Bajwa was set to retire at midnight Thursday. Prime Minister Khan had extended Bajwa's tenure through a notification on August 19, but the apex court suspended it on Tuesday, citing irregularities in the manner Gen Bajwa, a close confidant of Khan, was granted a 3-year extension.
'Today must be a great disappointment to those who expected the country to be destabilised by a clash of institutions,' Khan said in a series of tweets soon after the Supreme Court announced its short verdict.
'That this did not happen must be of special disappointment to our external enemies & mafias within,' Khan said.
He did not identify Pakistan's 'external enemies' and the 'mafias within.' However, he said the mafias have stashed their loot abroad and they wanted to protect the ill-gotten wealth by destabilising the country.
He also praised Chief Justice Khosa, who had grilled senior officials during the hearing and asked the government to set the house in order.
'Also, for the record, I have the greatest respect for CJ Khosa, one of the greatest Jurists produced by Pakistan,' Khan said.
Khan, who heads the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, claimed that his party was the first one to advocate an independent judiciary and the rule of law, 23 years ago.
'In 2007, PTI was in the forefront of the Movement for Independence of the Judiciary & I was jailed for it,' the Pakistan prime minister said.
In its short order, the Supreme Court directed the Pakistan government to bring necessary legislation within six months' time.
The order, read out by Chief Justice Khosa, asked Parliament to introduce legislation for appointment of the Army chief under Article 243.
He said the court is observing judicial restraint and leaving the matter to Parliament.
Meanwhile, a leading Pakistani newspaper on Thursday commented that the court case over General Bajwa's extension 'is without a doubt the most shambolic episode in the PTI government's tenure so far.
'The episode lays bare the PTI government’s authoritarian streak and its lack of maturity — a lethal combination,' Dawn newspaper said in an editorial.
'There are profound, long-term repercussions for the democratic process and for civilian authority at stake here; the situation demanded a broader parliamentary debate. And yet the government, out of sheer expediency and for the benefit of a single individual, went ahead — simply because it could,' it said.
The editorial noted that Khan recently said that he had decided to give Gen Bajwa an extension just a few days after assuming office in August last year.
'Even for a dispensation that repeatedly boasts of being 'on the same page' as the military, the prime minister's premature decision to grant the extension smacks of impetuosity — or worse, trying to curry favour with the Army chief,' it said.
The powerful Pakistan Army, which has ruled the country for more than half of its 70 plus years of existence, has wielded considerable power in deciding matters concerning security and foreign policies.
This is a landmark case, the paper said, adding that unprecedented questions are being raised, threatening to upend the accepted status quo, and holding a mirror to society's psyche. PTI AKJ AKJ