Pakistani president signs bill to curtail his powers

20:20, April 19, 2010      

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Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari Monday sealed a key constitutional amendments bill that stripped him of his sweeping powers, the presidential spokesman said.

Senate and the National Assembly had this month passed the 102- clause 18th Constitutional Amendment Bill with majority votes and it has now become part of the constitution.

Opposition leader Mian Nawaz Sharif also witnessed the signing ceremony on the special invitation by the president.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told the ceremony that the signing of the bill reflects the magnanimity of the president who willingly transferred his powers to the parliament.

"Pakistan would emerge stronger after the signing of the bill," Gilani said amidst clapping by the participants.

"Let us pledge to uphold democratic values," the prime minister said, adding that the day will be remembered in the history of Pakistan.

Chairman Senate, Speaker National Assembly, federal ministers, political leaders, governors, provincial chief ministers and parliamentarians attended the ceremony.

The amendments included taking away the president's power to dismiss parliament, an elected government and appoint military chiefs.

The legislation also removed several changes made to the constitution by former military rulers Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf to strengthen their grip on power.

The amendments changed the name of the British-era North West Frontier Province (NWFP) as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (Khyber side of the land of the Pashtuns).

Earlier the constitution conferred vast powers on the president, including the power to appoint services chiefs, the head of the election commission and the head of the public service commission. The president will, however, remain the supreme commander of the armed forces.

The president also had the power to dismiss all or any of the central or provincial governments and parliaments.

The amendment declared as illegal all the measures taken by Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999 after dismissing the elected government of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The bill also put an end to a clause banning the election of a prime minister for third times.

Political observers say that this would open way for Nawaz Sharif to become prime minister for a third term.

Source: Xinhua


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