Pakistan leader planning to give away his power
PAKISTAN will today unveil constitutional reforms to demonstrate its democratic credentials by distributing throughout government the powers seized by military dictators.
President Asif Zardari will hand over powers under the proposals, which are designed to guarantee the sovereignty of parliament and devolve power to provincial governments.
Pakistan has been plagued by regional unrest against what is seen as the overbearing federal government. Presidential allies said the plans would restrict the ability of military chiefs to seize power by using a pliable president to oust the prime minister.
The prime minister, as head of the executive backed by parliament, would become the most powerful figure in government.
Members of Pakistan's National Assembly, who have been meeting in London in the past week, have been recalled to Islamabad as Mr Zardari's supporters press ahead with the bill which will be introduced tomorrow.
The bill would overturn changes made by General Pervez Musharraf, the former military ruler. They gave the president power to dismiss elected governments and banned prime ministers from serving more than two terms.
"This will make Asif Zardari the president who gave away his powers. It will be the greatest contribution to democracy in this country since the 1973 constitution," one of the president's closest confidants said.
The decision to grant extra powers to the provinces has proved most controversial.
An eye-catching measure to rename the North West Frontier Province as Pakhtunkhwa after its ethnic Pashtun majority has run into opposition. The alternative name Afghania has been proposed as a compromise.
Supporters of the opposition politician Nawaz Sharif, who served twice as prime minister and was overthrown in a coup in 1999, raised fears the measures could fuel ethnic nationalism and weaken the country.
Raja Zafar-ul-haq, an opposition leader, said: "If we accede to the demands of the parties seeking maximum autonomy, then Pakistan will not remain a federation, it would become a confederation." (© Daily Telegraph, London)