Pakistan ruling party moves to clip Musharraf's power

18 hours ago

ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Pakistan's main ruling coalition party Saturday unveiled a proposed package of constitutional amendments designed to clip the wings of key US-ally President Pervez Musharraf.

Announcing the package, Pakistan People's Party leader Asif Ali Zardari told a news conference here the amendments would remove the president's powers to dismiss the government and would strengthen the parliament.

He said the government would open talks with Musharraf, the former army chief, on the package and would also discuss it with all political parties.

"We intend to walk him away, rather than impeach him away," Zardari said when asked if his government wanted to remove the former military strongman who became a civilian head of the government last year.

Zardari said the proposed bill, which would require a two-third majority in the parliament for approval, will be presented to the parliament as soon as possible.

Zardari, widower of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto, said dozens of judges deposed by Musharraf last year would be restored via a mechanism provided in the package.

The dispute over reinstatement of the judges had caused strains on the coalition government which was formed after Musharraf's allies were defeated in February elections.

Bhutto's party emerged as the single largest party but did not win enough seats to form the government on its own in the 342-member national assembly.

Under the proposed bill the president's powers to appoint the chiefs of the army, navy and air force would be transferred to the prime minister and parliament will appoint the chief election commissioner.

The bill also proposes renaming North West Frontier Province as Pakhtunkhwa, to reflect the ethnic character of the sensitive region bordering Afghanistan and inhabited mostly by Pashtu-speaking people.

The package came as deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was due to address a convention of lawyers later Saturday agitating for the restoration of the judges.