ISLAMABAD: Former federal law minister Farogh Naseem said on Thursday that the tenure of the army chief will continue from tonight 12: am and it will not be limited to six months.
He made these views while addressing joint press conference accompanied with attorney general Anwar Mansoor Shehzad Akbar and special assistant to PM on information Firdous Ashiq Awan.
“Article 243 has been explained as a point of the first impression as the issue had not been corrected for 70 years and apex court guided to bring the law,” the former law minister said.
“If the Supreme Court had ruled on the matter then, we would have had the guidelines this time around.”
He thanked the three-member bench for “providing the government guidance at every moment”.
He said that comments are sometimes made in the courtroom to lighten the atmosphere. Referring one such comment by “a judge when he told the attorney general he too could then be an army chief”, Naseem said that it was ill-advised to run such comments as “breaking news”.
He said that the judges simply seek to provide guidance and their remarks should be interpreted through that lens.
He said that the media was selectively showing “negative commentary” but avoiding to cover positive aspects of proceedings “such as when Justice Mansoor Ali Shah praised Naseem on multiple occasions: ‘He is doing good work. His drafting is solid. He will get things done immediately.’ “Why were these comments not run as breaking news?” asked Naseem.
Saying that there was no truth behind the alleged reprimanding of Naseem, Shahzad Akbar, and the attorney general by the prime minister and Gen Bajwa, he warned the media that the government is considering taking action against outlets which had run this “fake news”.
“The channels should either inform us about who gave them this news or if they are helpless and cannot, then action will be taken.”
He also regretted similar false news regarding his “licence not being intact” being aired. “I got permission today, had my licence and appeared in court.”
“So please understand the context. This was a delicate case pertaining to Pakistan’s security agencies, your chief of army staff.”
He said India was having a field day because of the way it had been presented by the media.
“We should all have demonstrated responsibility. This was not such a case in which we must flout our expertise in journalism.”
“You can flex your journalistic muscle but [not in such cases],” he said, before telling mediapersons: “You are an inseparable pillar of the state”.
Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan said, on the occasion, that to legislate on the matter of an army chief’s appointment and extension of tenure “will be a matter of pride for the government”.
“This is not a matter of adversity for the government,” said AG Khan, as he addressed a press conference following the court’s verdict earlier in the day which had stated that Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa will serve as the Army chief for six more months.
The court had announced its decision while directing the government to pass legislation which it said was missing from existing laws. The short order had noted that according to Article 243, the authority to appoint an army chief lies with the president. However, there is no duration of appointment specified in the Article.
“Today’s decision is a historic decision. The way the Constitution has been interpreted will provide guidance for us in the future,” said the attorney general.
Speaking of the unprecedented nature of the case and the proceedings that followed for three days, he said it was important to note that “various laws were debated upon and many things came to the fore which were never before decided in court”.
“It is important to state here that the Army Act is pre-partition and after 19-20 changes, it is being amended. It was never before challenged in court,” said AG Khan.
He said that was the reason why “no one ever realised the mistakes involved in the procedures that were being followed”.
The attorney general said that prior to Gen Bajwa’s appointment, many chiefs of staff were appointed and many got extensions using the same method that was employed this time around.
“The summaries were the same and the rules were followed in the same manner. There were no additions or any changes made.”
He said that it had been a custom to do things the existing way and so when the first notification was issued it was “a routine notification”.