Supreme Court Asked To Interpret Army Chief's 'Oath', Role In State Affairs

Petitioner cites alleged manoeuvring by the powerful institution and exceeding its constitutional mandate

Supreme Court Asked To Interpret Army Chief's 'Oath', Role In State Affairs

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has been asked to provide an interpretation of the 'oath' taken by the Chief of Army Staff and determine their role in state affairs, which areas they cannot interfere, citing the alleged manoeuvring by Pakistan's powerful military establishment and its rumoured role in destabilising elected governments.
Senior Lawyer Raja Muhammad Irshad submitted a petition with this request to the Supreme Court on Wednesday. His petition listed the President of Pakistan, the prime minister, and the army chief, through the law and defence ministries as respondents. 

At this point, it is pertinent to mention that there is no legal requirement for a military officer to take a particular oath upon their appointment as the army chief, nor does such an oath exist. The Change of Command ceremony, where the outgoing army chief hands over command to their successor, only sees the baton of command trade hands.

Petitioner Raja Muhammad Irshad, who served as a law officer during the tenure of former military dictator General (retired) Pervez Musharraf, requested the top court to direct the respondents to ensure constitutional governance in the country.

Irshad, who served as the state counsel in the high-profile Raymond Davis case, urged the court to declare that the state is facing chaotic conditions. There is anarchy and lawlessness due to a lack of constitutional governance in the country.

In his petition, filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, Irshad contends that the incumbent army chief is under oath to uphold the Constitution. 

"It is only the power and privilege of this apex Court under the Constitution of Pakistan to interpret and determine his role in the affairs of the State to put an end to this controversy about his overt and covert role in the Statecraft," the petition contended.

"It is in the supreme national interest to save the institution of army from being defamed by the power-hungry politicians," it added.

The petitioner also requested the court to fix his petition before a full court bench for hearing. 

"Let the full court seriously ponder over this constitutional issue and hand down an authoritative pronouncement for the guidance of the executive and legislative organs of the state," stated the petition. 

"It is a very serious allegation against the army's top brass and the premier intelligence agency for destabilising the elected governments and manoeuvring the elections in the country."

The petition stated that the country's economic development is entirely dependent upon constitutional governance.

"There are no two opinions that the state of Pakistan has crumbled due to vested interest of those occupying the seats of power and authority." 

Massive corruption and lawlessness have made the people's lives miserable, it added. 

"The capital is shy, and the investor is not coming forward to take the risk of carrying out investment to generate employment opportunities for those who are unemployed and suffering hunger and deprivation." 

It contended that saner elements of society have lost hope for the sovereign existence of Pakistan on the world map."

It is pertinent to mention that the Practice and Procedure Act 2023 is pending adjudication before the top court. The case pertains to the chief justice's discretionary powers to form benches and hear appeals on judgements under Article 184(3). 

The law, promulgated earlier this year, sees the chief justice share his powers to form a bench and fix cases with two senior-most judges of the top court. 

However, it remains to be seen whether this petition will be fixed for hearing before a decision on the Practice and Procedure Act.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain