Supreme Court bench headed by then chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa on November 28 granted a six-month extension to Bajwa (Photo Credit: IANS)
Leading Pakistani newspapers have criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan for failing to address the challenges faced by the country, especially on the economic front and for the “imperious haste” of his government to pass bills in Parliament to amend the Army Act to secure the job of top general Qamar Javed Bajwa. “It is becoming an increasingly visible trend now that wherever important decisions are being made the person most conspicuous by his absence is the prime minister himself,” the Dawn newspaper said in a stinging editorial on Monday.
At the moment, entire sectors of Pakistan’s economy are landing up in situations that necessitate public appeals and pose potentially catastrophic threats to the continuity of business, it said. The recent hikes in the power and gas tariffs clearly point to a critical lack of governance in the system, the editorial commented.
In every area, there is a sense of drift, a derelict state of governance, and the consequences of neglect are getting to be more and more visible. For example, the editorial pointed out that the polio virus has made a spectacular return to the country, thanks to the juvenile decision of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party leadership to place their social media team leader in charge of the polio programme.
“The country is now crying out for leadership at the top, somebody to pull it all together. An absentee prime minister is not working to solve problems and set the direction,” it commented.
The Nation, in an editorial, noted that the PTI has not learnt the lesson yet. The Supreme Court verdict on the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) extension ordinance should have been a wake-up call.
The PTI cannot, and must not ignore the Parliament, it said. “Despite constant setbacks suffered due to its irreverent interpretation of the rules of democracy the party is still forging ahead with its policy of ordering rather than governing,” the paper said in an editorial on Sunday.
The party led by Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician, may be in power for the first time, but it cannot claim ignorance of the democratic procedure that has been around for centuries, it said.
Yet, firmly into its term, the party is still riding roughshod over the checks and balances placed in the Constitution by its framers, it said.
The ruling party must understand that the reason the Supreme Court passed the buck to the Parliament on the COAS extension was not to absolve itself of responsibility, but to obey a cardinal democratic principle; that all important national decisions should be made by Parliament’s consensus, it said.
“Yet the same imperious haste and demeanour that characterised the original ordinance is being repeated in the passage of the bills related to the Army Act,” the paper commented as Khan’s government hopes to pass the key amendments to the Army Act in Parliament this week to ensure that Pakistan Army chief General Bajwa gets a three year extension in service.
The PTI’s urgency in “getting the job done” can be understood, but it must not forget why it is being asked to do all of this over again. Unusually speeding up and shortening the normal process of a constitutional amendment and legislation is the same rejection of democratic norms it was cautioned for. “At this crucial juncture and on such an important law the government needs to show respect for Parliament and the public,” it added.
Business Recorder, in an editorial said that for some reason better known to it, the Pakistan government, indeed, acted with unwarranted haste, calling sessions of the two houses of parliament on a 24-hour notice, and also bypassing proper legislative process.
The issue had assumed so much hype because the government repeatedly committed procedural faux pas in announcing a three-year extension for Gen. Bajwa, landing the case in the Supreme Court.
The leading business daily noted that skeptics have been raising objections to the justification that the “security environment” calls for continuity, arguing that, like in the case of governments, what is important under all circumstances is institutional strength, individuals come and go. “At the back of such argumentation, of course, are concerns rooted in an unhappy civil-military relationship", the paper commented.
A three-member Supreme Court bench headed by then chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa on November 28 granted a six-month extension to Gen Bajwa after being assured by the government that Parliament will pass a legislation on the extension/reappointment of an army chief within six months. The ruling came in the nick of time as Bajwa, 59, was set to retire at midnight on November 28.
On August 19, Prime Minister Khan extended Bajwa’s term for another three years, a move suspended by the apex court on November 26, citing irregularities in the manner of extension.
The powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70 plus years of existence, has wielded considerable power in deciding matters concerning security and foreign policies.