The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday suspended the extension of the current Chief of Army’s three-year term. The court held that the extension of the term is suspended on grounds that it violates the constitution. This comes as a setback to Prime Minister Imran Khan who initiated the extension “in view of the regional security environment,” alluding to the ongoing tension with India over the disputed Kashmir territory.
The constitution gives power to the president to appoint the Chief of Army Staff, and that appointment must be confirmed by the cabinet. However Khan initially extended Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s term without presidential approval. Shortly thereafter, the president also approved the extension in August 2019. The court nonetheless found that only 11 out of 25 cabinet members approved the extension.
The Attorney General argued that a regulation that limits or suspends an army officer’s retirement applied. The court struck this down by stating the the current Chief of Army’s retirement had not begun yet and that suspending a retirement before it begins “may amount to putting the cart before the horse.” Soon after the court’s opinion, the cabinet amended this regulation to include a provision stating “extension in tenure.”
The court further held that the reason given for the extension, which is “in view of the regional security environment” is too vague. If the court were to accept this reasoning, it would open the door for other army positions to also be extended.