Consultation on amendments to extend tenure of Army Chief


ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday launched the process of consultation on amendments to the Constitution concerning an extension in the tenure of Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

During the first phase of such meetings, the prime minister met senior leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) — National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, Leader of the House in the Senate Shibli Faraz, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Swati and Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar.

The Supreme Court on Nov 28 allowed a six-month extension in the tenure of the army chief and gave six-month deadline to the government to make amendments to the law regarding re-appointment and extension in the service of Gen Bajwa.

When contacted, NA Speaker Qaiser said the prime minister had called the meeting to discuss the overall legislative process in parliament and the issue of the army chief also came under discussion.

He said the prime minister was told that talks were under way with the opposition for smooth passage of pending bills and a bill was to be tabled regarding amendments to the laws relating to the re-appointment and extension in the tenure of the army chief. “We have assured the prime minister that a way will be found so that there is no deadlock between the members of treasury and opposition benches in the National Assembly and the Senate.”

The speaker said backdoor meetings between the government and opposition were under way to reach consensus on pending and new legislations. “A meeting was also held today between the government and the opposition on the appointment of chief election commissioner in which we also informally discussed the issue of pending and forthcoming legislations with the opposition,” he added.

The speaker said the government would try to ensure that all new bills would be initially sent to the legislative committee of the parliament, in which all parties in the NA and the Senate have representation, so that these could be discussed and reservations of the opposition could be addressed before sending the bills to the parliament.

“We [the government and the opposition] will also ensure that the situation on any issue does not become so aggravated that the parties concerned have to move court of law,” Asad Qaisar said. “We want to settle all issues in the parliament.

It has been learnt that there is a backlog of more than 160 bills in the parliament, but no legislation is being made due to lack of harmony and cooperation between the government and the opposition.

The ruling PTI and its allies are in majority in the National Assembly while the opposition dominates the Senate. Under the constitution every bill which is passed by the lower house has to be passed by the upper house of the parliament also.

Not only the opposition but some other quarters and analysts also have started blaming the government for not evolving ‘harmony’ with the opposition as a result of which the process of legislation has virtually stalled.

Recently the government tried to make legislation through presidential ordinances and President Dr Arif Alvi promulgated eight ordinances.

However, the government withdrew all of them over the opposition’s criticism and agreed to table the bills in the National Assembly under prescribed rules and procedure.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz stalwart Khawaja Asif, in his fiery speech on the floor of the National Assembly on Monday, warned the government that the opposition would not cooperate with the government and would not let the legislation process run smoothly. He accused the PTI of organising a demonstration outside the residence of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in London a couple of day ago.

PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said Khawaja Asif, as a senior leader of the party, had announced that the N-League would not become part of any talks with the government on any issue, including pending legislation in the parliament.

She said on the issue of legislation on re-appointment and extension in the term of the army chief, the PML-N had a clear stance: “We are waiting for the detailed verdict of the Supreme Court.”

Ms Aurangzeb said on the one hand the government ‘in connivance with the National Accountability Bureau” was keeping opposition leaders behind the bars without any conviction or evidence and, on the other, it [the government] wanted cooperation of the opposition.

“The government has pushed the opposition to the wall and we will not cooperate with it until the government mends its ways,” she added.

Later, the prime minister chaired another meeting on restoration of defunct Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) and directed that an international company be selected in a transparent process for maintenance of the mill.

The prime minister was informed that various international companies had shown interest in restoration of the PSM.

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