Govt mulls seeking cabinet’s endorsement over next army chief pick

The federal government has started considering an option to seek the endorsement of the cabinet of the rainbow coalition government on the final pick for the next chief of army staff.

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This was suggested to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday by certain coalition members.

In various orders, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has urged the government to seek the approval of cabinet when making high-profile decisions or appointments.

In this regard, key coalition partners including the Party Peoples Party (PPP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), and other allied parties have extended their unconditional support to PM Shehbaz over the new procedure to appoint the army chief.

Moreover, the PM has also been informed about the positive aspects of this strategy, such as granting ownership of the decision to all coalition members.

According to the prime minister’s advisors, after seeking a official nod from the cabinet members, any decision with regards to the appointment of the COAS is less likely to be challenged on any legal platform.

Appointment process of army chief

According to the constitution and the specific law – Article 243 of the Constitution and Chapter 8 of the Army Act 1952.

According to the constitution

The President shall, on advice of the Prime Minister, appoint—
(a) the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee ;
(b) the Chief of the Army Staff;
(c) the Chief of the Naval Staff; and
(d) the Chief of the Air Staff,
and shall also determine their salaries and allowances.

Chapter 8A of the Army Act 1952 (as amended in 2020) says:

Appointment of the Chief of the Army Staff
(1)The President shall, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint a General as the Chief of the Army Staff for a tenure of three (03) years.
(2) The terms and conditions of the Chief of the Army Staff shall be determined by the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister.

According to Federal Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, the process of appointing a new army chief begins around a week or so before the incumbent chief is set to retire.

The Prime Minister Office initiates the process by asking names from the defence ministry. The ministry, in turn, writes to the General Headquarters (GHQ) for names of candidates.

These names are then communicated to the PM Office where the prime minister reviews the dossiers and ultimately finalizes a name and sends their recommendation to the president for appointment.

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