Legal tweak to allow PM to retain army officers with stroke of pen.

ISLAMABAD -- At a time when the country's military is preparing for a change of command, the government seems to be considering amending the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) 1952 in a way that would empower the appointing authority - i.e. the prime minister - to retain any candidate through a simple notification, rather than having to go through a complex, constitutional process, it has emerged.

The summary regarding a slew of changes is all set to land before the Cabinet Committee for Disposal of Legislative Cases (CCLC), following approval by the Ministry of Defence last month, after which the proposed legislation is expected to be laid before parliament.

As per the proposed amendment in Section 176 titled 'Power to make rules', sub section (2-a), in clause (a) of the PAA, the word 'retention' shall be inserted after 'reappointment' in the current text of the law, while the word 'resignation' would be inserted after the word 'release'.

The clause in question currently reads: 'The [Federal Government] may make rules for the purpose of carrying into effect the provisions of this act... Without prejudice to the generality of the power conferred by subAsection (1), such rules may provide for the appointment, reappointment or extension, retirement, release, discharge, removal or dismissal from the service of persons subject to this Act, including the Chief of the Army Staff and / or the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.'

In the current political climate, the development is being viewed as a critical one which may change the equation around the change of command expected in the military.

Dawn reached out to Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb as well as several other members of the federal cabinet, but none of them responded to requests for comment.

A senior lawyer with experience in dealing with military-related cases told Dawn that through this amendment, the prime minister would gain the power to have the army chief, or any other senior officer who is set to retire soon, continue in his role until further orders.

'The current legislation calls on the government to follow a set procedure to reappoint or extend the tenure of the army chief, i.e. a summary through the Ministry of Defence, followed by the PM's approval and a final nod from the president,' he said.

The lawyer added that the proposed change in the PAA could allow the premier to simply issue a...

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