At last, the matter of the extension of General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s tenure as Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff has been settled. The country was sent into turmoil again when on Tuesday the Supreme Court suspended the notice of the federal government regarding Bajwa’s extension. After two days of hearings, the apex court finally granted a conditional extension of six months to Bajwa that is subject to legislation in parliament on the extension/reappointment of a COAS.
This was first time that a military chief who is considered to be the most powerful figure in the country came under question by the courts over an extension of his tenure. The inept and inefficient cabinet of Prime Minister Imran Khan left no stone unturned to make Bajwa and the state a laughing stock. From preparing the wrong notification of Bajwa’s extension to not being able to satisfy the court as to why the tenure extension was necessary, the government’s legal team made a total mess of things. Had the court not shown restrain, Bajwa would have been sent home as the court found no provision in the law to grant an extension to his tenure.
This raises the question as to why the court did not show such restraint when it disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on a very vague charge. This fiasco over Bajwa’s extension has made it clear that elected prime ministers are treated by the courts on a different basis than a military leader; in the latter case, the doctrine of necessity can be invoked to save him from disgrace.
However, the damage has already been done, as Bajwa has become a controversial COAS and his extension ultimately remains dependent on the parliament. That is the same parliament that has always been bulldozed by the powers that be, and both serving and retired generals often declare it.