Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa tenure is due to end at midnight of November 28, 2019, and Prime Minister Imran Khan government is working towards the extension of his tenure by a term or three more years.
However, for the first time in Pakistan's history, the case of extension in service of Army Chief has caught the eye of the Supreme Court (SC), which is digging deeper into the procedures through which the extension is being given to Bajwa by the Imran Khan government.
The petition by a lawyer challenging the extension of the Army Chief has not turned into a broader debate on the procedures and standard operating procedures that ensure extension or re-election of an army chief.
On the second day of the hearing, the Supreme Court continued to give tough time to the government as its attorney general faced difficult questions by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa. Suggesting the Imran Khan government to "assess what it is doing", CJP Khosa adjourned the hearing till Thursday.
During the hearing on Thursday, the SC had raised questions over the incorrect steps taken by the government in issuing notifications of extension of the COAS.
The court had also questioned the Prime Minister office for issuing approval on COAS extension, while it was required to send ahead a summary of recommendations, signed by the Prime Minister Imran Khan after consultation with cabinet members. The summary would later be approved and notified by the President of Pakistan.
The government had to opt to at least three different approvals from the PM house and then the President House before being questioned in the court.
During the last huddle of the cabinet members held on Tuesday at Prime Minister House, the committee had amended the Army Act Section 255, adding the word 'extension' before approving and sending the summary ahead to the President.
However, the Supreme Court, in the hearing on Wednesday, highlighted that the amendment made by the government does not apply to the COAS as he is the commander while the Army Act applies to officers.
The court also noted that the government has not looked into the notifications as clear deviations were visible between the summary of PM house which recommended 'extension' of COAS while the notification approval mentions 'appointment'.
It should be noted that the Supreme Court had earlier cancelled the notification from the President on the extension of the COAS during August this year, raising questions over procedures undertaken for the same.
Adding more to the embarrassment of the government's attorney general and the case contention by former Law Minister Farokh Naseem, who resigned a day before to represent COAS Bajwa in the Supreme Court; Farokh Naseem was barred from presenting the case on behalf of COAS Bajwa as his legal license was not reinstated after resigning from the Law Ministry.
The Supreme Court has now given the government time till Thursday to come up with a logical contention and procedural argument on the case, insisting that if the government fails to satisfy the court, then a decision would be taken in light of the law of the land and the constitution of the country.
It is also important to note that the case, challenging the government's decision to give extension to COAS bajwa, filed by Riaz Hanif Rahi, who later asked the court for withdrawal of his petition, was rejected by the CJP Khosa, taking the case up under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution, stating that the case held 'public importance'.
Prime Minister Imran Khan kept a close eye on the second day of the case proceedings and summoned an immediate and emergency meeting of the federal cabinet to discuss in detail the pointers raised by the court.
COAS General Qamar Jawed Bajwa also arrived at the PM house and deliberated on the proceedings. COAS also attended the briefing by the government's legal team to the Prime Minister Imran Khan over the case also.
As the case has been adjourned till Thursday, it is expected that the court will come up to a conclusion on the case, and will be setting important precedents over the SOPs in practice, applied in appointing, re-appointing or extending the tenure of an Army chief.