Pakistan’s top court suspends army chief’s term extension

In a rare move and a blow to the administration of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has temporarily suspended an extension of the term of office of the country’s chief of army staff.

General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s term would normally end on Friday. He was handed a three-year extension on August 19, with the office of Prime Minister Khan citing tensions with neighboring India over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir as the reason for the move.

In a hearing on Tuesday, Pakistan’s Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said the court was suspending the decision until the army produced detailed arguments on its reasoning.

“If the [regional security] situation is so, then the army as a whole body can deal with the situation, not the individual,” Khosa said. “If this criterion is allowed, then every individual in the army can demand an extension on the same grounds.”

The Tuesday’s interim order is only temporary, and the court will hear the case again the following day.

The ruling was a blow to Khan’s administration, which has enjoyed good ties with the military, in contrast to the tensions between the civilian government and army under the party of his rival Nawaz Sharif.

Under Pakistan’s constitution, the chief of army staff usually serves a three-year term. Since the role was established in 1972, only one general has had his term extended by a civilian government.