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Pakistani Court Raises Questions Over Move To Extend Army Chief’s Term

General Qamar Javed Bajwa is the head of the Pakistani army.
General Qamar Javed Bajwa is the head of the Pakistani army.

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan's top court has suspended a government decision to extend the term of current army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa by three years.

The Supreme Court suspended Bajwa's term extension until November 27 when it will again hear a petition against the move, the Attorney General’s Office says.

Bajwa was appointed by then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in November 2016 and his tenure is due to end on November 29.

But in August, Sharif’s successor, Imran Khan, extended 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.

At the Supreme Court’s November 26 hearing, Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa pointed out flaws in the government's decision to extend Bajwa’s term and questioned whether extending the military chief's term was permissible.

Khosa issued notice for representatives of the military and the government to appear in court the next day to produce detailed arguments on the reasoning behind the move.

"It is the prime minister's discretion to decide whether there is a need to grant an extension to a services chief in unusual circumstances," acting government spokesman Shafqat Mahmood later told a news conference.

The Pakistani Army has ruled the country for nearly half its 72-year history.

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 dpa, Reuters, and AP

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