Pakistan’s National Assembly Passes Bills To Extend Army Chief Gen Bajwa’s Tenure

Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The Supreme Court had earlier suspended a government order to extend the Army chief’s tenure.

Pakistan’s lower house of Parliament on Tuesday passed three crucial bills to give extension to Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa for another three years, signaling the dominance of the powerful army, which has ruled the country for more than half of its 72 years of existence.

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, observing that there is no law to give extension to the Army chief’s tenure. But the apex court granted a six-month extension to Gen Bajwa after being assured by the government that Parliament will pass legislation on the extension/reappointment of an Army chief within six months.

The government after initial hesitation secured the support of the main Opposition parties and introduced three bills in the National Assembly 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.

The bills were approved by the Standing Committee on Defence on Monday, paving the way for approval by the Assembly.

Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak moved the three bills – The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Bill 2020 – for voting and were passed easily as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan People Party supported them.

However, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal and Jamat-e-Islami boycotted the session as they were not happy with the new laws.

After the approval by the National Assembly, the bills will be presented in the Senate, the upper house, and are expected to be passed without any problem.

Once cleared by the two houses, the bills will be presented to the president for final approval to be promulgated.

It will help the government to re-appoint General Bajwa for another three-year term. 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.

Pakistani Writer Says Security Agents Confiscated His Novel On General Zia Ul Haq

Hanif’s Karachi publisher had released the Urdu translation of ‘A Case Of Exploding Mangoes’ last October.

Pakistani writer Mohammad Hanif

A prominent Pakistani novelist and New York Times columnist said on Tuesday that security agents raided the offices of his publisher and confiscated all the copies of his book about the country’s former military dictator Zia ul Haq.

The raid took place on Monday in Karachi, the largest city and key port in Pakistan, according to the novelist, Mohammad Hanif.

Hanif, whose acclaimed “A Case of Exploding Mangoes” is a parody about the former dictator, killed in a plane crash in 1988, blamed the Pakistani spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI, for the raid.

However, an official at the agency described Hanif’s claim as a “cheap attempt to gain popularity by hurling false accusations on a national institution.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity under ISI regulations.

The agents who arrived at the publisher’s offices identified themselves as being from the ISI, said the author, an air force pilot turned journalist. His Karachi publisher had released the Urdu translation of the novel last October.

“They asked about my book and took all copies of it,” he said, adding that he was consulting his lawyer about filing a complaint with the police.

Hanif rose to fame when the novel was first published in 2008 in English, two decades after Haq who was killed when his plane went down in eastern Punjab province.

Authorities never released the results of their investigation or say what had caused the crash, which also killed US Ambassador Arnold Raphel and then-ISI chief Gen. Akhtar Abdur Rahman.

Hanif also alleged the raid came after members of his family sent a note to his publisher complaining that the novel tarnished the image of Haq, who seized power in a coup in 1977.

It was unclear his relatives would complain about his work so many years later but Hanif speculated they were unconcerned when it was only available in English but became worried once it was translated, presumably because many more Pakistanis would read it in Urdu.

The book cites a rumour that a bomb had been planted inside a crate of mangoes that were gifted to Haq and that was also aboard the plane.

Pakistan has witnessed an intensified crackdown on human rights defenders, activists, journalists and members of civil society over the past years.

Journalists, who have taken on military dictators and been beaten and jailed in the pursuit of a free press, say they now face a form of censorship that is more subtle but no less chilling, spearheaded by the security services and the ISI, to quash critical coverage.