The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government and the Opposition parties have reached a rare agreement over the proposed amendments to the Army Act to fix the tenure and extension of service of Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, a media report said on Friday.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had extended 59-year-old Gen Bajwa's tenure through a notification on August 19. However, the Supreme Court in November suspended the government order, citing irregularities in the manner the army chief, a close confidant of Khan, was granted an extension.
On Wednesday, at an emergency meeting of the Cabinet, presided over by Prime Minister Khan, approved amendments to the Army Act, nearly four weeks after it assured the Supreme Court of passing a legislation on the extension and reappointment of an Army chief within six months.
A rare consensus was reached on Thursday, a day before tabling the bill in Parliament to give a three-year extension to Chief of the Army Staff General Bajwa, the Dawn newspaper reported.
The legislation, titled Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act-2020, will fix 64 years as the maximum age limit of the three services chiefs and the chairman of the joint chief of staff committee, with the prime minister having the prerogative to give extension to any of them in future after completion of their normal tenure at the age of 60 years and the President having the power to give the final nod.
The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) assured the government of its "unconditional" support to the bill, but the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) cautioned the government against haste in the matter to ensure proper and sagacious legislation through Parliament, the report said.
Leaders of the ruling PTI government are confident that the bill will be passed by parliament with the required simple majority on Friday, days after the sessions of the Senate and the National Assembly were convened on a 24-hour notice.
Law Minister Farogh Naseem told reporters in the Parliament House that all parties and stakeholders were on the same page regarding the passage of the bill.
The PML-N has come under severe criticism as its senior leader Khawaja Asif said the support was given on the directives of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been given bail to get medical treatment in London.
"We are hopeful that the bill seeking amendments in the army act, which requires a simple majority, will be passed from both houses unanimously on Friday," PTI chief whip in the National Assembly Amir Dogar was quoted as saying in the report.
He said under a provision the maximum age limit of the Army, Navy and Air Force chiefs and joint chief of staff committee will be 64 years in case they were given extension in their tenures.
A delegation of the ruling party, headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, met with Opposition PML-N leaders on Thursday for bipartisan support for the bill, which is expected to be tabled in the National Assembly on Friday.
After the meeting, the PML-N said it would support the bill as it "does not want the position of COAS to become controversial".