Pakistan’s parliament moves to implement governance agenda

April 10th, 2009 - 6:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani Islamabad, April 10 (IANS) Pakistan’s political equations are set for a sea-change with the lower house of parliament Friday moving to implement the governance agenda, which envisages power being centred in the prime minister’s office, that the ruling party and its now estranged partner had agreed on before elections last year.
The National Assembly Friday unanimously approved a resolution to form a committee for implementing the Charter of Democracy (CoD), with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani saying the nation and political forces should unite to resolve issues.

“We will ensure the supremacy of parliament, will restore constitution of 1973 in its original form and eliminate amendments made during dictatorship,” Gilani maintained.

Once this happens, key powers will be transferred back to the prime minister’s office from the presidency, which will then play only a ceremonial role.

These include the powers to appoint the service chiefs and the Supreme Court chief justice and also to dismiss the federal and provincial governments and dissolve the National Assembly and the provincial legislatures.

More importantly, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which had quit the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led federal coalition over the non-implementation of the CoD, could well return to the government.

The National Assembly resolution came a day after President Asif Zardari Thursday urged Gilani to “take appropriate steps to fulfill the promise made in my address to parliament by urgently initiating the process for implementing the Charter of Democracy (CoD) and repeal of the 17th Amendment”.

“How best to implement the CoD is, of course, the prerogative of parliament to decide,” Zardari said in a letter to Gilani, his first since assuming office.

Describing the charter as “our compass in the rough sea and a guide to the future”, Zardari said it was “the goal of our political endeavour and a beacon of light towards which we should seek to move”.

Former prime ministers Benzair Bhutto of the PPP and Nawaz Sharif of the PML-N had agreed on the CoD in October 2007 ahead of the general elections originally scheduled for January 2008.

Bhutto’s assassination Dec 27, 2007 pushed the polls back by a month and saw the PPP and the PML-N posting a one-two finish.

The two parties, along with smaller regional groupings formed a coalition but walked out when Zardari reneged on the promises made in the governance agenda.

One of these related to restoring Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and the other apex and high court judges then president Pervez Musharraf had sacked after imposing an emergency Nov 3, 2007.

The other related to the repeal of 17th constitutional amendment that Musharraf had pushed through in 2003 stripping the prime minister’s office of its key powers.

The judges were restored last month after Nawaz Sharif led a high-voltage lawyers’ “long march” to Islamabad.

The protest also saw Gilani emerging with the aura of a statesman at the cost of Zardari, who gave in on the issue only after the prime minister and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani read him the riot act.

On March 22, the day Chaudhry and the other sacked judges were reinstated, Gilani and Sharif met for lunch at the latter’s country villa on the outskirts of Lahore.

Thereafter, Gilani formally invited the PML-N to rejoin the government, but Sharif has said this would not happen “for the moment”.

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