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The Upper House of the Parliament on Wednesday passed the three government bills to "specify the tenure and the terms and conditions of service" of the three services chiefs and chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
Following this development, President Arif Alvi was expected to sign into law the three bills; the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2020, the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Act, 2020 and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Act, 2020 during Wednesday night.
The National Assembly and Senate Standing Committees on Defence passed the three bills earlier on Tuesday.
The Senate session on Wednesday hardly continued for 20 minutes as Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani allowed the legislative business only concerning the three bills and adjourned the Senate session after the bills were passed one by one, each through voice vote.
Defense Minister Pervez Khattak respectively presented the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2020, the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Act, 2020 and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The mainstream opposition parties; Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), did not oppose the bills. However, smaller political groups; Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), National Party (NP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), opposed the three bills.
Interestingly, even smaller opposition groups remained completely silent when the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2020, the most crucial bill that deals with the extension in services of the army chief, was presented and passed clause by clause. However, soon after this bill was passed and the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Act, 2020 was presented for a vote, Usman Kakar from PkMAP raised objection that the voting process was "in violation of the rules" and asked the chairman Senate that he be given the floor, but he received a snub from the chair. "Mr. Senator, don't teach me the rules and don't interrupt the smooth proceedings of the House," the chairman Senate told Kakar.
The opposition leaders, especially Kakar and Mushtaq Ahmed from JI, protested during the respective voting on the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Act, 2020 and the Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Act, 2020. "Those supporting these bills are the relics of the dictators like Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf," Kakar said.
Even though the PPP completely supported all the three bills, its Parliamentary Leader Sherry Rehman asked the chairman Senate to be given the floor when the Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Act, 2020 was presented for voting. "This is not the time for speaking, madam senator. You were part of the Senate (defence) committee which passed these bills," the chairman Senate told her.
After the three bills were passed, the chairman Senate announced to adjourn the Senate session till Friday 10:30am.
The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2020, seeks to amend the provisions of the Pakistan Army Act, 1952, "so as to empower the President on the advice of the Prime Minister, to specify the tenure and the terms and conditions of service of the Chief of the Army Staff or the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, including the grant of extension to, and re-appointment of the Chief of the Army Staff or the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and to provide for other related matters in light of the Honourable Supreme Court's judgment dated 28 November, 2019."
Section 8B(1) of Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2020, reads, "Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or any other law for the time being in force, the President on the advice of the Prime Minister, may reappoint the Chief of the Army Staff for additional tenure of three (3) years or extend the tenure(s) of the Chief of the Army Staff up to three (03) years, on such terms and conditions, as may be determined by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister in the national security interest or exigencies, from time to time."
The Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Act, 2020, seeks to amend Pakistan Air Force Act, 1953. Section 10B(1) of Pakistan Air Force (Amendment) Act, 2020, reads, "Reappointment or extension of the Chief of the Air Staff- (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or any other law for the time being in force, the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister, may appoint the Chief of the Air Staff for additional tenure of three (03) years, or extend the tenure(s) of the Chief of the Air Staff up to three (03) years, on such terms and conditions, as may be determined by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister, in the national security interest or exigencies, from time to time."
The Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Act, 2020, seeks to amend Pakistan Navy Ordinance, 1961. Section 14B(1) of Pakistan Navy (Amendment) Act, 2020 reads, "Notwithstanding anything contained in this or any other law for the time being in force, the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister, may reappoint the Chief of the Naval Staff for additional tenure of three (03) years, or extend the tenure(s) of the Chief of the Naval Staff up to three (03) years, on such terms and conditions, as may be determined by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister, in the national security interest or exigencies, from time to time."
All the three bills include a related section which states that that the retirement age and service limits, prescribed under the rules and regulations made under the related Acts shall not be applicable to the related services chiefs and chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee during their respective "tenure of appointment, reappointment or extension subject to a maximum age of sixty-four (64) years."

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020