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View: Pakistan Supreme Court queries on Bajwa Extension may have to do with discontent in Army

If Khan continues to bank on one General or the other to stay in power, rather than taking the Opposition into confidence on the issues affecting Pakistan, he would put whatever is left of democracy in Pakistan in peril.

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Last Updated: Nov 30, 2019, 07.06 AM IST|Original: Nov 30, 2019, 07.06 AM IST
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By Avinash Mohananey

The recent order of the Pakistan Supreme Court to allow Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa to continue for six more months has provided Prime Minister Imran Khan a much-needed reprieve.

Embarrassing the government for three days, the court had rejected all three summaries approved by the government on Bajwa’s extension, citing legal and procedural flaws.

The reasons the government cited for granting extension to Bajwa was ‘threat from India’. It cited Balakot air strikes, Pulwama blast, the situation at the line of control, constitutional changes in Jammu and Kashmir and ‘aggressive’ statements of Indian leaders. The court, however, said that the ‘threat from India’ was not new and asked why the government considered Bajwa’s successor would be incapable to deal with the challenges.

In real, the entire Pakistan knows the selection of army chief is a matter of ‘life and death’ for any PM. A wrong move could cost the PM his job and even land him in prison or gallows, as in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s case. For obvious reasons, Khan is confident of Bajwa, who backed him and helped him win last year’s general elections.

Khan certainly believes Bajwa would continue to do so for the next three years and returned the favour.

With his election promise of ‘Naya Pakistan’ nowhere in sight, the economy in a downward spiral, inflation of 11.5%, and Imran focusing on targeting political opponents, a strong resentment is brewing across the country.

It manifested clearly in the support Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s ‘Azadi March’ received a few weeks back.

Yet, the Supreme Court’s decision to question the extension in a country that has a history of Generals indulging in self-extensions is not clear.

However, questioning of legal basis of even a three-year tenure of appointment of the army chief and summoning past records, indicates problems were in the army.

Bajwa’s extension will adversely affect careers of about 20 two and threestar Generals. The military leadership would like the issue to be legalised and settled once and for all in the interest of the army as an institution.

This would restrict political manoeuvering by serving army chiefs. With the nature of the bureaucracy being the same on either side of the border, I can say with complete confidence that juniors just hate extensions to bosses even in deserving cases.

Whether Khan likes it or not, the matter will now be deliberated in the National Assembly and a suitable law will be enacted in six months.

No PM or army chief would be happy about it, as it restricts their discretion to play around with the issue. Further, Khan will have to negotiate the issue with Opposition, whom he has described as ‘mafia’ in a recent tweet.

If Khan continues to bank on one General or the other to stay in power, rather than taking the Opposition into confidence on the issues affecting Pakistan, he would put whatever is left of democracy in Pakistan in peril. This may not be a good omen for peace in the region.

(The writer is a former IB officer, who served in Pakistan)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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