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Pak govt seeks stay on Supreme Court's ruling on Army chief's extension

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Pak govt seeks stay on Supreme Courts ruling on Army chiefs extension
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Islamabad: Pakistan government on Thursday sought a stay order from the Supreme Court against its landmark verdict in the extension of service case involving Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had extended 59-year-old Gen Bajwa's tenure through a notification on August 19. However, the Supreme Court suspended the government order, citing irregularities in the manner the army chief, a close confidant of Khan, was granted an extension.

The government in its plea requested the apex court "to accept the application and suspend/stay the operation of the impugned judgment dated November 28, 2019, in the interest of justice".

This is the second petition filed by the government in this high-profile case.

On December 26, the law ministry had approached the top court against its detailed judgement, issued on December 16, in which the government was ordered to legislate on Bajwa's extension within six months. The government urged the apex court to form a larger bench to hear the case and set aside the earlier judgment.

On November 28, Bajwa got a six-month conditional extension from the apex court, ending an unprecedented legal wrangle that shook the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and pitted the powerful military against the judiciary.

The petition filed on Thursday prayed to the court that the "petitioners have a strong prima facie case to succeed; hence the operation of the impugned judgement may be suspended/stayed till the final decision of this civil review petition."                

It further stated that the "balance of convenience lies in favour of the petitioners" and if the "injunction as prayed is not granted, the petitioners will suffer irreparable loss.

The plea asked the chief justice to "constitute a larger bench comprising five judges so as to hear the review petition.

In its previous petition against the detailed order, the government had pleaded the court to keep the proceedings in-camera.

On Wednesday, at an emergency meeting of the Cabinet, presided over by Prime Minister Khan, approved amendments to the Army Act, nearly four weeks after it assured the Supreme Court of passing a legislation on the extension and reappointment of an Army chief within six months.

The government was planning to table the Bill in the parliament for approval if it failed to get relief from the court, according to sources in the government.

According to the copy of the Bill called 'Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2020', an extension in the tenure of an army chief cannot be challenged in any court of law in the future, Geo News reported.

A delegation of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, met with Opposition PML-N leaders on Thursday for bipartisan support for the bill, which is expected to be tabled in the National Assembly on Friday.

After the meeting, the PML-N said it would support the bill as it "does not want the position of COAS to become controversial".

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