ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed the law ministry to prepare a legal draft to propose amendments in the Pakistan Army Act 1952 in a bid to extend the tenure of four-star generals — proposing a one-year increase from their current three-year terms.
The law ministry has already begun work on the draft which, if approved, will increase the three-year term of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and other services chiefs, who have ranks equal to a general, by one more year.
The government, however, has yet to decide whether the legal amendments will be retrospective i.e. effective from the incumbent four star generals/services chiefs or the upcoming ones.
The development comes against the backdrop of the premier’s recent meeting with the military leadership, including the heads of other services chiefs, a source in the PM House told
Constitutional expert SM Zafar believes the government will have to move a resolution in parliament to bring amendments in the Pakistan Army Act 1952 if it intends to extend tenure of rank of general. “There is no need to amend the Constitution in this regard,” he added.
Habitual petitioner Shahid Orakzai, who has moved several petitions in the Supreme Court on military issues, said: “Army Act 1952 only describes tenure of ranks in the forces,” adding that the tenure of a four-star general is three years while a three-star let general’s tenure is four years and major general’s is five years.
Similar to the army chief, the air and naval chiefs (also four-star generals) also have three year tenures. If the government intends to extend the tenure of ranks of four-star generals from three years to four years then it will also be apply to the air and naval chiefs.
A high-level official from law ministry confirmed the development but said work on the proposed legal draft would take take time.
Articles 243 to 245 of the Constitution of Pakistan directly relate to the armed forces. However, there is no specific language pertaining to the term of office in these articles. Article 243 states the president is empowered to appoint the services chiefs on the advice of PM.
The law ministry official said the proposed draft bill will introduce amendments in Pakistan Army Act 1952 which will require a simple majority in parliament to become law.
He went on to add that a simple notification would suffice when it comes to extending the tenure for the current army chief General Raheel Sharif.
The official said the legal team will also consult with the military establishment over other possible amendments in the Pakistan Army Act 1952.
A source in the PM House said the current army chief’s extension was out of question since he had issued a statement against such a move.
I don’t believe in extensions. I will retire at the end of my tenure,” Raheel Sharif was quoting as saying by ISPR on January 25. The source went on to add that the government felt a three-years term is insufficient for services chiefs to meet their targets.