Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. File
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) announced on Thursday to unconditionally support the extension of Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa as the chief of the army staff for three years.
The decision was taken in a meeting of PML-N parliamentary party, which received a message from its leadership that advised it to fully back the amendment bill when it would be tabled in the National Assembly by the government on Friday.
Party officials said that the PML-N leadership does not want the position of the army chief to become controversial, and has therefore decided to support the government to amend the Army Act.
A government delegation also reached out to the PML-N to garner support for making amendments to the Army Act.
The move comes a day after the proposed amendments rushed through the federal cabinet, which unanimously granted its approval for the changes. The Supreme Court in November last year had directed the government to remove ambiguity in the law on the issue of extension in the army chief’s tenure. Government lawmakers including Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Leader of the House for the Senate Shibli Faraz and Federal Minister Senator Azam Swati, met PML-N leaders, where the latter assured their support for the proposed amendments. The PML-N delegation comprised Khawaja Asif, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Rana Tanvir among others.
PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan said that the party leadership in London has given the nod to support the amendments through consensus.
The government delegation is expected to meet Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawmakers to discuss the matter.
The government is going to introduce the amendment bill in the parliament on Friday after building a consensus with the opposition on the matter.
The government needs the support of opposition parties to make the amendments as it doesn’t have the requisite majority in the Senate.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told reporters that the matters of national interest should not be politicised. She said she was hopeful that the parliament would play its legal and constitutional role to “once and for all” settle an issue currently being discussed in the parliament.
“We all have a responsibility to Pakistan’s institutions, which are the guarantors of national well-being,” she said.
Awan said that the parliament had been approached for a matter which falls under the executive domain of the prime minister.
“God willing, with a consensus, we will settle this important issue and parliament will play a key role,” she said.
Meanwhile, senior leader Rana Sanaullah said that Shahbaz Sharif will return to Pakistan in the second week of January if the medical reports of former premier Nawaz Sharif are found satisfactory.
Shahbaz has been accompanying Sharf, his elder brother, since November last year when the latter flew to London to get medical treatment after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) granted him interim bail in a corruption case in view of his medical condition. The long absence of Shahbaz — also leader of opposition in the National Assembly — has set the rumour mills rolling as the PML-N leader is also facing a number of corruption cases and is also on bail.
However, Sanaullah said that Shahbaz is abroad to “take caring for his elder brother and it is only an assumption that he will not return to Pakistan.”
He said that he had visited Jati Umra — Sharif family residence — to pay a visit to the PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz.
“It was not a political discussion. Rather it was a lunch in my honour on my return from jail,” he said.
Sanaullah was released on bail in the last week of December after six month long incarceration in the wake of his arrest in a narcotics case.
He said the discussion revolved around Sharif’s health and his case. He denied allegation of drugs smuggling and said the case against him was based on political vendetta.