Even though Defence Minister Khawaja Asif made an effort to downplay the discussion on a leaked proposal to change the army statute on Wednesday, the discovery has exposed the ongoing power struggle taking place behind the scenes in preparation for the upcoming appointment of a new army chief.
The Pakistan Army Act (PAA) of 1952 included numerous revisions that were broad in scope and related to the army’s operations, command organisation, and terms and conditions of service.
‘Retention’ of COAS
The words “retention” and “resignation” have been added to sub-section 2(a) of Section 176, which is the alteration that is now receiving the most attention.
In the current situation, where one of the candidates for the coveted position is scheduled to retire a few days before the chief’s position becomes available, a cursory reading of this particular amendment would suggest that a provision is likely being created to pull up the transition in a way that removes the complexity involved in making an appointment.
The government or any of the services are technically permitted to keep any retiring officers of the rank of lieutenant general and below for as long as is necessary without the requirement for additional law, according to a retired defence secretary.
The former secretary, who wished to remain unnamed, claimed that the current army chief appeared to be the intended recipient of the “retain” proposal.
It is obvious that the positions taken by the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the ruling allies have made the selection of the new commander quite difficult; if one candidate is chosen, there is a chance that one of the political parties may attempt to publicly cast doubt on that appointment.
Military Unrelenting Political Scrutiny
The military cannot afford this right now, when some of its senior leaders are under to unrelenting political scrutiny.
This is the setting in which the suggestion to allow Gen. Bajwa to hold office until the installation of a new administration appears to have developed. The next army chief would be chosen by the newly elected government.
Imran Khan was a strong advocate for this notion up until a few weeks ago, but even he now appears to have readjusted his opinions on the appointment and is less eager to impose his ideas on the selection procedure.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif argued in a tweet on Wednesday that the proposed reforms were necessary in light of the Supreme Court’s 2019 ruling, which called for legislation regarding the terms of the services heads.