Minister 'confirms' plans to amend army act.

ISLAMABAD -- Even though Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday attempted to downplay the debate on a leaked proposal to amend the army act, the revelation has laid bare the ongoing behind-the-scenes power struggle, ahead of the impending appoAintment of a new army chief.

The wide-ranging amendments proposed in the PakisAtan Army Act (PAA) 1952 pertain to an array of subjects relAaAted to the army's functioning, structure, command, and terms and conditions of service.

However, amendments to SecAtion 176 are currently the centre of attention, especially the insertion of the words 'retAeAntion' and 'resignation' in sub-section 2(a) of the same clause.

A casual reading of this specific amendment in the current scenario, wherein one of the contenders for the coveted post is scheduled to retire a couple of days before the chief's position falls vacant, would suggest that a provision is probably being created to pull up the transition in a manner where the complexity involved in making an appointment is removed.

But that may not necessarily be the case.

Read more: Legal tweak to allow PM to retain army officers with stroke of pen

The amendment was originally proposed by General Headquarters, as per the Defence Ministry's Summary for the Cabinet Committee for the disposal of Legislation Cases (CCLC) and, on the face of it, seems to be meant to achieve the goal of getting Gen Bajwa to continue.

According to a retired defence secretary, the government or any of the services can technically retain any of retiring officers of the rank of lieutenant general and below for as long as they are required, without needing any new legislation.

The former secretary, who did not want to be named, said the plan to 'retain' seemed to be meant for none other than the incumbent army chief.

It is clear that the positions taken by the ruling allies and the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf have made the choice of the new commander quite tricky: if one candidate is picked, there is a chance that one of the political parties may try to discredit that appointment in public.

This is something the military can ill-afford at this juncture, when some of its senior officers are facing relentless criticism in the political domain.

This is the context in which the proposal to get Gen Bajwa to continue in office until after a new government is installed, seems to have emerged. The idea is that the new government then picks who would be the next army chief.

Until a few...

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