‘Musharraf agrees to work with reduced powers’

April 7th, 2008 - 11:54 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, April 7 (IANS) A Pakistani cabinet minister is mediating between the government and President Pervez Musharraf to reach a consensus over a constitutional amendment that will reduce him to a figurehead following US pressure on the ruling coalition to not impeach the former army general. “The president has agreed to work even with the reduced powers,” an official at the presidency told IANS on condition of anonymity.

The official said a cabinet minister was mediating between the government and Musharraf. He added that the president had conveyed to the ruling coalition that he would not interfere in administrative matters.

The US has played a crucial role in convincing the coalition partners not to move an impeachment motion against Musharraf. However, US officials John Negroponte and Richard Boucher, who recently visited Pakistan, were told that the president would be reduced to a titular head.

To be called the 18th constitutional amendment, the new package will be introduced during the next session of the National Assembly and take away many crucial powers of the president.

Sources said the constitutional package is being given final shape by a committee of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) legal experts.

The provisions of the Charter of Democracy signed between former prime minister and head of PML-N, Nawaz Sharif, and PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari would be followed by the coalition.

According to the charter, the government will restore judges and will make the parliament independent and sovereign, which means Musharraf will not enjoy the powers he had since he overthrew Sharif’s elected government in 1999.

Sources said there were some differences over the mechanism for restoration of judges between the two major coalition partners but they have been resolved.

The package will also determine the status of the steps taken by Musharraf after he imposed emergency in the country on Nov 3, 2007.

The draft package says that the power of the president to dissolve the National Assembly under Article 58(2)B of the constitution, appoint provincial governors and services chiefs, impose governor’s rule in any province or declare a state of emergency would be withdrawn.

After the removal of Article 58(2)B, the president will not be able to impose emergency. The power for the appointment of governors will be transferred to the prime minister while high-ranking army officers will also be appointed through the premier’s orders.

Sources added that the package would also support the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and ensure that it could not be challenged in any court.

The NRO introduced by Musharraf provided amnesty to assassinated former prime minister and PPP head Benazir Bhutto as wells as several leaders of her party. Some of the politicians granted amnesty under the NRO are members of the new cabinet.

The constitutional amendment will also propose some judicial and jail reforms while relief packages for lawyers and judges have also been included in the package.

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