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Pakistan government introduces bill to extend army chief’s term


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government on Friday introduced legislation to expand the military chief’s tenure in line with a Supreme Court order that must justify his wish for the senior commander to remain on the job for three more years.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government approved an extension for General Qamar Javed Bajwa in August, citing a worsening of the national security situation in the region over their rivalry with India.

But in a surprise ruling, the Supreme Court analyzing the extension in November, ordering the government and the military to produce legal provisions and arguments about the reasoning behind the measure, pitting the judiciary against the government and powerful Military.

The Pakistani army has ruled the country for about half of its 72-year history and sets defense and security policy and has recently played a role in economic policymaking as well.

The army chief is usually a three-year term.

On Friday, the first day of a new parliamentary session, the government introduced a lower house bill to provide legal cover for the Bajwa extension after gaining the support of opposition parties, officials said Government.

“We are willing to support the legislation if the government follows parliamentary procedures,” said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the leader of a major opposition party.

Legalization is expected to pass next week, clearing the way for Bajwa in his post until 2022.

During Bajwa’s tenure, the opposition has accused the military of meddling in elections and politics to support Khan, while limiting civil liberties and dazzling the media.

The military denies interfering in politics.

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