Zardari asked to seek SC opinion on the appointment of new army chief

By Kiran Bokhari

Islamabad, Aug 12 ( The President of Pakistan has been requested to formally seek the opinion of the Supreme Court before the appointment of the next Chief of Army Staff.

In a letter to President Ali Zardari, Shahid Orakzai has cautioned President Asif Ali Zardari about the delay in the matter as the Prime Minister was apparently waiting to install his own party-man in the Presidency before giving the required advice under Article 243.

“The Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces was asked to keep an eye on the personal axis between the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of Pakistan as the latter was allegedly resisting legal moves to seek an interpretation of Pakistan Army Act, 1952 on the criterion of promotion.”


Mr. President

As the “Supreme Command of the Armed Forces” I seek your attention to Clause (4) of Article 243 where under “The President shall appoint” no less than four military officers “on advice of the Prime Minister”.

Let me recall, and it may be verified, that in summer 99, the then Prime Minister had given the double charge of the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chief of the Army Staff to General Pervez Musharraf, essentially to overcome the crisis of confidence in the post Kargil scenario. That was utterly unconstitutional.

The incumbent Prime Minister, being no different person, has announced to appoint the senior most General Officer of Pakistan Army as the next COAS. The Constitution, in Article 243 does not use the words “senior” or “seniority”. The new criterion is just a precaution evolved from the personal experience of the Prime Minister who, in his last tenure, had to fire two Army Chiefs to dismiss their viewpoint on certain issues.

Apparently the Prime Minister is waiting to install his party-man in the Presidency before he gives the required advice. If that be true, besides his political convenience, it means for the time being he does not consider you “the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces”.

Mr. President, the act to be done in September is that of appointment than promotion because all promotions are regulated by law. But in practice these appointments, at the same time, are promotions to the rank of Four-Star General.

The criterion for promotion in all the three services is professional competence than length of military service or seniority by date of recruitment. Legally speaking, the same professional standard shall apply to advice under Article 243 although there is no Promotion Board to examine the credentials of probable appointees.

The single emphasis on seniority would slaughter professional growth of the Armed Forces. Pakistan Army, Navy and Air Forces have set their professional standards for promotion and any act that reverses the system could threaten the discipline of the Armed Forces. For that discipline, every member of the Armed Forces forgoes his Fundamental Rights including the Freedom of Speech and Expression. In short, no General in Pakistan Army can write the kind of letter you are reading. As the President, you have to watch the legitimate rights of all those who cannot exercise or assert those rights before a court of law. The political convenience of the Prime Minister alone will not ensure the Security of Pakistan.

Mr. President, you have sworn that “I am a Muslim” and loudly expressed your commitment to the “Books of Allah the Holy Quran being the last them”. Please refresh that oath and remember that the Quran does not accept seniority as the criterion for leadership and anyone in doubt shall read Sura Euseph. Pakistan Army Act, 1952 cannot contravene the Quran and that law has to be interpreted in conformity with the Constitution.

In a Republic where Judiciary is impartial, a citizen need not write a letter to the President. But, practically, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, too, is guided by convenience of the Prime Minister as demonstrated on July 24 last.

Every petition or appeal filed on the subject of Military Appointments is being labeled “not entertain-able”. As the President, you must watch any personal axis between the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of Pakistan. In your absence, information about the impartiality and honesty Mr. Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was handed to the Chairman Senate on July 27 last. That information must reach the appropriate forum without any delay after it has been published by a weekly journal.

Mr. President, this hour, it is most “desirable to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court” on the following “question of law”: Whether the four appointments shall be made by gauging professional competence or mere length of service? I think that question is of considerable public importance but Article 186 accepts it as a question only if the President “considers it a question of public importance”. So what do you think?

Mr. President, kindly read that Article only to see what the Constitution expects from “the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces”. Regardless of the expiration of your term, the Opinion of the Supreme Court would surely strengthen soldiery, military skills and professionalism in the Armed Forces. The matter can’t be left to the whim of the Prime Minister when his declared priority clearly clashes with the Quran.

Shahid Orakzai


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