Pakistan Deep State Imbroglio

 By Dr. Jyoti M. Pathania

Prime Minister Imran Khan through an official notification of August 19 granted a three-year extension to Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, citing reasons of regional security environment. He wanted continuity with the COAS especially since they both have been working in tandem as two sides of the same coin; also, if the chief goes, the days of Imran Khan also seem to be numbered. Under the present Constitution Article 243(3)[1], it is the President of Pakistan who issues notifications for appointment of the Chief as per the advice of the Prime Minister. However, even without a cabinet approval or a proper file noting, the tenure of the Army Chief was extended, from November 2019 till November 2022. After the extension was given there was lot of consternation. The political and the legal system in Pakistan were at logger heads and the conflict between the Judiciary, Government and the Army came to the fore. While such a new scenario is in play in Pakistan, let us look at the various facets of this state of confusion and complications.

Political & Constitutional Crisis: Pakistan has embroiled itself into a politico- legal crisis. The Article 243 of the constitution talks about the appointment of the chief but does not mention the period of appointment. Section 255 of the Army rules and Regulations did not have the word extension in its act. After the courts order, this word was included in the fresh notification which was approved by the president as well, but the court again questioned that the three-year tenure for an extension was not specified in the revised act. The political dispensation was again in a fix. The Pakistan constitution does not lay down any provision for an extension in the tenure of the Chiefs be it the Army, Navy or the Air force. Legal lacunas and inappropriate procedures have been opted by the Imran khan government, like there was no approval from the cabinet ministers, there was not even Presidential assent to the 19th August order.

Judicial Activism:  Pakistan Supreme Court has issued an extraordinary judgement by suspending the governments order for the extension of the COAS. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa headed a three-member apex court comprising of Justices Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Syed Mansoor Ali K Sha. This three-member bench suspended the notification of extension to the COAS and issued notices to all parties including the Army Chief.This was the first time that a serving chief was issued a notice. It a good thing that judiciary has stood up and has asserted its rightful role. Under article 184(3)[2], the Chief Justice of Pakistan took this case up as a matter of grave concern even after it was withdrawn. The recent death sentence awarded to Gen Musharraf on charges of Treason seems another bold step by the judiciary reiterating its independence

Justice Khosa is due to retire on December 20th. It is yet to be seen if the judiciary at large will continue its crusade of disallowing unconstitutional actions of the ‘Deep State’ or is it limited to the individual alone and will die down after his leaving the office. Though by giving six months extension, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has delicately handled the case so far, by acting as a balancing force and averting a major crisis. Moreover, it has asked the government to work out other details through legislation, like defining the reasons for granting extension, provision for reappointment, and other necessary terms and conditions of the service. Timeline extension of six months is a breather for the Government and the Chief. This has set the ball in motion for the political parties and the legislative machinery to plan out necessary amendments to Rule 255 of the Army Regulation Act. This will need a simple majority vote in the parliament. Other Political parties themselves are eyeing for their pound of flesh in this political and legal tussle, because if changes to the act or the law have to be made it will require a simple majority in the parliament. Hence, haggling with other political parties will begin. The Media has also been blaming Imran Khan for his inept handling of the Bajwa extension case. In fact, his popularity charts have shown a massive decline.

India factor: The India factor in their domestic political battle was a given but acknowledging a mafia within shows chinks in the arm of the Deep State. Imran Khan welcomed the Thursday verdict regarding extension for six months, and stated the it would have caused a “great disappointment to “external enemies and mafia within.”[3]

Pakistan Army: While Pakistan army is the only army in the world to have a state no doubt, but for the first time in the history of Pakistan a serving COAS was summoned by the Court. However, in many ways, he himself gave an indication of the extension when he cut short the tenure of Lt General Asif Munir and put his regimental officer Lt Gen Faiz Hamid as the ISI chief. But if he does get extension for another three years will he be a weaker Chief as he suffered humiliation during this crisis? Pakistan army so far has not issued any statement at all on this matter perhaps signifying a bigger complication. The fate of other senior officers is now overshadowed with ambiguity. According to Rana Banerjee, if the COAS gets an extension, other senior officials of the Pak Army will see no light at the end of the tunnel and those senior generals who had a conceivable chance of becoming Chief would be wasted out. Moreover, if he gets another three-year extension that is till 2022, it would fall in sync with the winding up of Imran Khan’s tenure as well. Hence, it would be unlikely to be overturned by the current establishment.

Deep State Omnipotent: Resignation of the law minister Farogh Naseem from the post as Law Minister to represent Gen Bajwa’s case is certainly an indication of the strong support that the army has, its tentacles are widely spread in all the areas of governance, so much so that a serving law minister resigned for the sake of bringing a convincing defence and arguing the case of the COAS.

Conclusion: The conflict between the Judiciary, Army and the Government has been managed very well so far, but the conflict is not yet resolved. The Supreme court verdict granting a six months extension has put the lid on the boiling pot, but the pot is still simmering. It will be interesting to see how the deep state imbroglio will further unfold itself in times to come.


[1]  Article 243: Command of Armed Forces, The President shall, on advice of the Prime Minister, appoint-a. the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee;b. the Chief of the Army Staff;c. the Chief of the Naval Staff; and d. the Chief of the Air Staff, and shall also determine their salaries and allowances.

[2] 184Original Jurisdiction of Supreme Court.

(3) Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 199, the Supreme Court shall, if it considers that a question of public importance with reference    to the enforcement of any of the Fundamental Rights conferred by Chapter I of Part II is involved have the power to make an order of the nature mentioned in the said Article.

[3] Imran Khan Tweet “Today must be a great disappointment to those who expected the country to be destabilised by a clash of institutions. That this did not happen must be of special disappointment to our external enemies & mafias within -” Tweeted on 28 Nov 2019.

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DR. JYOTI M. PATHANIA is working as a Senior Fellow and Chairperson Outreach committee at Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New-Delhi. A doctorate in Political Science, she graduated from Lady Shri Ram College in Political Science (Honors) and secured the Third rank in Delhi University. She obtained her M.A. and M.Phil. degree in “International Politics” from the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She was selected to go on a scholarship to the European Peace University in Austria, Spain, and Ireland, where she pursued another Masters's in advanced studies in ‘Peace and Conflict Studies. She has over 20 years of teaching, training and research experience in various universities: to name a few; Symbiosis Law College Pune, Amity Law School Delhi, Centre for Strategic and Regional Studies, Jammu University, Jiwaji University Gwalior, St. Xavier’s College Ranchi and also worked as an analyst for South Asian Analysis Group and was also the Assistant Director of the Amity Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution. She has also qualified for National Eligibility Test for lectureship under University Grant Commission. Recipient of various awards and scholarships, to name a few, Prof. Randhir Singh Award for securing distinction in Political Theory, Prof. N. N. Aggarwal Memorial Award, Austrian Govt. Development Scholarship, H.P. State Govt. Scholarship, National Talent Scheme Scholarship, Delhi University. She was also awarded by the Chief Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat for excellence in research and establishing collaboration with international research institutes. She has authored books and written articles for various newspapers and journals both national and international. She is also the founding editor of the Online Indian Journal of Peace & Conflict Resolution. Her book on India- Pakistan: Confidence Building Measures was one of the first few books on the subject. Her areas of specialization are International Politics, Conflict Resolution & Peace, Non-Traditional Security, and South Asia.