ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s highest court has temporarily suspended a government notification that allowed the country’s powerful military chief to serve another full three-year term.
Tuesday’s unprecedented move by the Supreme Court came several months after Prime Minister Imran Khan issued the extension order for the chief of army staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who is due to retire later this week.
The court will hear the case again on Wednesday to determine whether the government’s action was in line with legal requirements.
The three-judge panel, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, observed in its order that Pakistani laws do not allow the government to suspend or limit the retirement of a military officer before the retirement has actually taken effect.
Khan’s aides have been defending Bajwa’s extension citing, among other security challenges, heightened military tensions with rival India over the disputed Kashmir region.
But the court questioned the “regional security environment” as the purpose to justify Bajwa’s reappointment to the office of the military chief of Pakistan.
However, Tuesday’s temporary court order has surprised many in Pakistan which has experienced several military coups and where extensions given to army chiefs in the past have been overlooked by the judiciary.
The Supreme Court had sided with and provided legal cover to the last military coup in 1999 that ousted the elected government of former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.