Rare consensus

On services chiefs tenure bills

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The National Assembly on Tuesday approved three bills regarding the tenure of the services chiefs as well as the chairman of the joint chief of staff committee. Earlier the National Assembly’s standing committee on defence had discussed and debated the bills before approving them for laying them before the house. Pakistan Peoples Party had suggested certain amendments to the bill but the Defence Minister Pervez Khattak requested them to take them back in light of the regional situation as in his view this would send a message of unity from the house. Obliging the government,

PPP MNA Naveed Qamar took back his party’s recommendations regarding the three bills.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami and the MNAs from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas staged a walk out but that did not make any difference to the process of approval. The Senate is likely to vote on the bills on Wednesday.

Once this process is capped by the presidential assent, shall put to rest the confusion that the Supreme Court in its decision had pointed out, giving the government a window of six months. The amendment shall give the constitutional cover to any future extensions in the tenures of the services chiefs. This however shall remain the prerogative of the prime minister who could decide looking at the security environment of the time.

One appreciable aspect of the apex court judgement was that it left the decision with the parliament rather than dictating the way forward. This should also strengthen our parliament.

As we are nearly done and dusted with the tumultuous few weeks of back and forth on the consultative process, a look back at how the major opposition parties – Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party – behaved is in order. As they announced their almost unconditional support for the amendment, they faced more than expected backlash from their support base. And, all this while, both the parties seemed to be hedging their bets. Inside the committee rooms they did one thing where as in front of the cameras, they said otherwise. Even on Monday evening when the government was announcing a consensus on bills, the PPP chairperson was heard pointing out flaws in the process and suggesting amendments to the bill draft.

Soon after the NA vote there was a lot of talk of national unity and the appreciation for the political class that came together at a time when the nation needed it. It is hoped that this spirit shall remain in place and the government as well as the opposition shall work together in the same spirit to alleviate the suffering the common man.