In a Rare Show of Bipartisan Support, Pakistan Parliament Approves Bill for Military Chiefs Extensions

“It’s a historic move demonstrating unity in the face of challenges the country faces,” an independent observer of Pakistan affairs said.

DESPARDES — Pakistan’s Upper House of Parliament on Wednesday passed three bills concerning the tenure of the three services chiefs — chief of army staff, chief of air staff and chief of naval staff — and the chairman of the joint chief of staff committee, a day after the Lower House (National Assembly) said Aye to these bills.

Two major opposition parties — PML-N and PPP in the opposition-dominated Senate were on board. “It’s a historic move demonstrating unity in the face of challenges the country faces,” an independent observer of Pakistan affairs said.

The PTI-government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan had extended Army Chief Gen. Bajwa’s tenure for another three years — due to regional conditions and national security matters — subject to Parliamentary approval, the country’s Supreme Court said in December while approving it for six months.

A majority of Senators present called out “Aye” to the bill. It was opposed by senators belonging to the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), National Party (NP) and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).

These bills will now become acts of parliament after formal assent by President Dr Arif Alvi.

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The bills were proposed and approved following Supreme Court’s verdict calling for giving a legal cover to Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s extension (for 3 years) through the Parliament within the six months extension granted.

PPP and PML-N backed the PTI government’s move in a rare show of bipartisan support in both the Houses.

The country’s top court had asked the parliament to carry out legislation that would provide “certainty and predictability” to the post of the COAS for all times to come.

The court observed that the terms and conditions of service of the COAS, the tenure of his office, extension in the tenure of his office or his reappointment to that office “have remained unregulated by any law so far”.

Prime minister’s aide Firdous Ashiq Awan said by passing the tenure bills, political parties had “shown political maturity” and had strengthened Pakistan and national interest.

Speaking to the media after the Senate sitting concluded, Awan said the “nationalhood (sic), unity, national harmony” shown in the Upper House today was proof that the nation unites whenever the country is faced with challenges.

She further said that the unity seen in the National Assembly yesterday was reflected in the Upper House today. She expressed hope that political parties will work with the same “harmony and unity” while addressing other issues of national interest.