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Editorial | Judicial Restraint Averts A Systemic Breakdown

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It was an interesting day in the history of civil-military relations and the judiciary in Pakistan. The Supreme Court’s decision regarding the extension of Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and the government’s procedural gaffes therein has resolved an immediate burning question. But it has opened up new issues for the government to grapple with.

For one, the ball has been thrown back to the political leadership and elected representatives. The government now faces the task of rising above its own drive against its opponents and chalking out legislation as required by the Court. This will then retroactively legitimize the extended term for the Army Chief. The apex court’s actions have ensured that the issue of extensions will remain firmly the preserve of Parliament.

Moreover, the foundation has been laid for creating a permanent mechanism for an Army Chief nearing the end of their tenure. Any legislation on this issue now would have the effect of either ending the practice or systematizing it. Arbitrary extensions and refusals may well become a relic of the past.

There are two main interpretations of where this unexpected intervention by the apex court leaves the balance of power in the country.

One view is that the current ruling constellation is now even more beholden to the various challenges to its legitimacy that emerged over the past few months. In this analysis, the latest episode will leave the political and security leadership with no option but to walk the path of accommodation with the opposition and various critics.

The other perspective takes a completely opposite view. Here, the conclusion from today is that the ruling constellation has – willy nilly – weathered perhaps the greatest storm so far. Now, it will move to establish itself more decisively and in this process, take a stern view of any further hurdles created by the opposition.

Much will depend on what the government makes of the six months of breathing room granted to it by the apex court’s decision today.

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