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.