Zardari to shed power to dissolve parliament

September 20th, 2008 - 6:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Sep 20 (IANS) Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari Saturday said he would shed his controversial powers to dissolve parliament to ensure the supremacy of the legislature.”I ask the government to form a committee of all parties and revisit the 17th Amendment (to the constitution) and make the parliament sovereign,” said the president in his maiden address to a joint sitting of both houses of the parliament as is required under the constitution.

“Never in the history (of Pakistan has) a president stood here and give away his powers,” said Zardari who effectively controls the government being run by his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

Zardari spokes on a number of issues including terrorism, political and economic issues, Pakistan’s relationship with its neighbours and the international community. He particularly mentioned country’s desire to improve relations with India.

Zardari was elected president on Sep 6 after former military dictator Pervez Musharraf resigned last month. Zardari also co-chairs the PPP with his 20-year old son after last year’s assassination of Pakistan’s former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Zardari is the seventh president to address the parliament. And, in a significant break from the past, his was the only speech that was listened to in pin drop silence. All the previous 16 presidential addresses were made amid protests, boycotts and shouting by opposition members.

Zardari began his speech by placing Benazir Bhutto’s portrait on the rostrum and paying homage to his deceased wife and other members of the PPP who had died in campaign for restoration of democracy in the country.

Zardari is also the first president to address parliament in English and wearing a Western suit whereas all previous presidents had addressed the legisalture in the traditional sherwani and in the national language Urdu.

At one stage, Zardari stopped his address and requested the house to pray for all those who have laid down their lives for the country, including his father-in-law Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his brother-in-law Mir Murtaza Bhutto, whose murder has been blamed on Zardari.

While the government and its allied parties appreciated the address, the opposition was quick to say that it was just a routine speech and that nothing specific had been said.

“It was a routine speech…nothing special and specific announced. His speech is far below the expectations of the people…I believe he should have addressed the critical issues the country is facing,” Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters after the address.

“My dream is to rid the country of poverty, despair, terrorism and make it a peaceful land,” Zardari said, adding the agenda of PPP government is of “moving quickly, moving to develop the country”.

He said: “We must root out terrorism and extremism wherever and in whatever form it is.”

Zardari said that the government should be firm on not allowing its soil to be used for terrorism in other countries. “We will not tolerate attacks inside Pakistan by any power in the name of combating terrorism,” said the president amid desk thumping by the government MPs.

“I believe the world has become a dangerous place. We need make it peaceful through collective efforts,” said the president, adding that this was why he had invited Afghan President Hamid Karzai to his oath-taking ceremony.

Zardari also asked the government take the initiative to rename the North West Frontier Province as Pakhtoonkhwa. He also wanted the government to construct low cost housing colonies for journalists throughout the country.

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