Pakistan‘s Supreme Court has stayed the extension of service of the country’s Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa following a petition questioning his religious identity. A debate has been raging these days in the Pakistani media about the religious identity of Gen Bajwa. Questions are being raised about Bajwa being a Muslim.
The court has issued a notice to all the parties to the dispute including Gen Bajwa. After the stay by the court, Prime Minister Imran Khan called an emergency meeting and demanded the resignation of the law minister.
Pakistan’s prime minister had made some changes in the Defence Act of the country to extend Bajwa’s tenure. Reportedly, the way the term ‘extension’ was added to it got mired in legality.
A few days ago, Maj Khalid Shah of the Pakistan Army had filed a petition at the Peshawar High Court of Pakistan, challenging the appointment of Bajwa on the grounds that he came from the Qadiani community and was, therefore, not a Muslim.
The case of Rizwan Akhtar, former DG of the Pakistani spy agency ISI, which works under that country’s military command, has been cited in the petition filed in the Peshawar High Court regarding the religious identity of Gen Bajwa.
There was controversy over Rizwan Akhtar’s Muslim identity. The petition states that both of them have hidden the truth that they are non-Muslims.
The Qadiani community is identified as Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan. Pakistan’s mainstream Muslims hold that Ahmadiyya Muslims are non-Muslims. In Pakistan, no non-Muslim person can become the Army chief as per law.
In Pakistan, an Ahmadiyya Muslim is called a kafir (infidel). The fourth Khalifa (Caliph) of the Ahmadiyya sect had to leave the country due to the restrictions imposed on him by the government of Pakistan.
Gen Bajwa was appointed as the 16th Army Chief of the Pakistan Army on 29 November 2016. He succeeded Gen Rahil Sharif. Gen Bajwa is considered to be knowledgeable about Kashmir. He also has a good experience of working along the Line of Control with India.
Gen Bajwa has served as an Army officer in PoK and the northern areas of Pakistan for a long time. He has served also on the post of force commander in Gilgit-Baltistan. Bajwa served as a brigadier during Pakistan’s participation in a peace mission in Congo.
Prime Minister Khan approved the extension of Gen Bajwa’s service on 19 August. The notification was sent to President Dr Arif Alvi. The president signed it.
But the court objected to it, saying any notification on any extension of tenure could be issued only after the completion of the current term of the COAS (Chief of the Army Staff), which expires on 28 November 2019.
The idea of Bajwa’s service extension had been met with nationwide scepticism right on the day when this was proposed. Pakistan’s opposition parties had said the three-year extension given to Army chief would not be viewed favourably and will send a wrong message that the Pakistan Army was dependent on “one or two individuals”. A section of the Army believes that Bajwa’s detractors are behind his ‘wrong’ social profiling, as they could not dissuade Prime Minister Khan from extending the service of the Army chief.