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Pakistani Court Pressures Government To Explain Move To Extend Army Chief’s Term

FILE: General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
FILE: General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan's top court has given the government one more day to explain why it had decided to extend the term of current army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa by three years.

The matter sets up the possibility of a spat between the judiciary and the powerful Pakistani Army, which has ruled the country for nearly half its 72-year history.

Speaking on November 27 at a Supreme Court hearing on a petition against the extension of Bajwa's term, Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan had failed to provide legal justification for reappointing the general.

"If something unlawful has happened we have taken an oath to correct it," Khosa said, before the court adjourned without issuing a ruling.

On November 26, the Supreme Court suspended the extension of Bajwa's term, pointing out flaws in the government's decision.

Bajwa was appointed by then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 2016 and his term expires at midnight on November 28.

In August, Khan decided to extend his term by another three years due to the "regional security environment," amid heightened tensions with neighboring India over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Khan's government has enjoyed good relations with the armed forces, in contrast to the previous government.

During Bajwa's tenure, opposition politicians have accused the military of manipulating last year's general elections to help bring Khan to power.

Media-freedom watchdogs have also complained about the erosion of press freedoms in the country.

The military has denied interfering in politics or muzzling the media.

With reporting by Reuters