Pakistan plans major constitutional changes

May 23rd, 2008 - 1:29 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf

Islamabad, May 23 (IANS) Pakistan plans to amend around two dozen articles of the constitution but there is a huge question mark over whether the ruling coalition will be able the muster two-thirds majority required in parliament to approve the measure. “Most of the previous amendments to the basic document over the past few years would be undone and for this purpose over 20 articles would be drastically changed,” The News reported Friday.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which is a part of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led ruling coalition, was quick to play spoil sport.

“Make no mistake, we would support no package unless the deposed judges are restored first through a resolution in parliament without any discrimination as we have been pressing (for) since long,” a PML-N leader said.

The PML-N has been demanding the reinstatement of the Supreme Court and high court judges President Pervez Musharraf sacked after declaring an emergency last November. The PPP had initially agreed to this as part of a constitutional amendment package but then backtracked, saying the judges would be restored only after parliament cleared the amendments.

This prompted the PML-N to pull its nine ministers out of the government. The PML-N, however, continues to be a part of the ruling coalition.

A leader of the former ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) said it would not blindly support the amendments.

“We will not toe the PPP line and act as an independent political party,” he said.

“Without the backing of the PML-N or the PML-Q, the PPP, even with the support of its allies, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the Awami National Party (ANP), the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) and independents, is in no position to pass the 18th Amendment in either house of parliament,” The News noted.

“The MQM’s support may become doubtful if the package contains a massive cut in the presidential powers, as its solid alignment with the president despite its coalition with the PPP is beyond any doubt,” the newspaper added.

Given this, it was not surprising that the PML-N leader accused PPP co-chair Asif Ali Zardari of playing games to delay the reinstatement of the sacked judges.

“When Zardari would not be able to garner the requisite two-thirds majority in parliament, he would conveniently say that he can’t amend the constitution because he doesn’t have the required figure,” the PML-N leader said.

“This would further delay the restoration of the sacked judges, and this is what the PPP chief wants,” he added.

The PPP, however, sounded upbeat.

“Anybody who wants real parliamentary democracy must support the new constitutional package as it will dispense with gross distortions in the constitution,” a PPP leader said.

“When the package will be unveiled, the PML-N would definitely extend support to it because it would also include its demands,” another leader said.

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Posted in South Asia |