Parliament gives Musharraf more clout after cutting deal

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's parliament yesterday passed an historic constitutional amendment that gives US-backed President Gen Pervez Musharraf extraordinary powers in return for a promise that he will quit his army post by the end of next year. 

Supporters hailed the legislation as a return to democracy, while opponents staged a walkout and decried the deal as window-dressing on what they say is essentially military rule. 

The vote came five days after a surprise deal between Musharraf and a hardline Islamic political bloc, the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, or MMA, which has been highly critical of the US led war in neighbouring Afghanistan, and voiced support for that country's ousted Taliban regime. 

The deal will allow Musharraf to serve out his term as president, which ends in 2007, and formalise special powers he had decreed himself giving him the right to sack the prime minister and disband parliament by decree. 

In return, Musharraf agreed to step down as army chief, the main source of his power, by Dec 31, 2004. 

“The approval of these constitutional amendments is the beginning of real democracy in Pakistan,'' said Azeem Chaudhry, a spokesman for Musharraf's ruling PML-Q party. 

Opposition lawmakers were unconvinced – and a large bloc walked out of yesterday's session, allowing the legislation – the 17th amendment made to Pakistan's 1973 constitution – to pass by a vote of 248-0. 

“By approving these amendments, the ruling party and MMA have re-imposed military rule,'' said Ahsan Iqbal, chief co-ordinator of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League party.  

“They are taking us backward as far as the evolution of democracy is concerned.'' 

The amendment must now go to the Senate, but approval there – possibly as early as today – is seen as a formality.  

Musharraf would then seek a vote of confidence which is assured of passage because of the MMA support. 

The general, who came to power in a 1999 military coup, has become a key ally in the US war on terrorism, backing American military action in Afghanistan and arresting more than 500 al-Qaida suspects in his own territory. 

Under the agreement, Musharraf was forced to scale back somewhat the extraordinary powers he decreed himself.  

He must now consult the prime minister before sacking him, and he must seek approval from the Supreme Court within 15 days of taking such action. 

The bill ended a yearlong stalemate that has paralysed parliament.  

Opposition legislators – led by the MMA – had blocked most debate since late 2002, shouting down speakers, and staging mass walkouts. 

The deal was a strange marriage of convenience between Musharraf and the religious coalition. – AP  

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
Join our Telegram channel to get our Evening Alerts and breaking news highlights

Next In Regional

Olympic host Tokyo hits record 2,848 COVID-19 cases, seeks more hospital beds
Covid-19: Number of deaths equals previous high of 207
‘Made in China, sold on Amazon’ merchants scramble to minimise losses after US platform closes over 50,000 Chinese shops
Indonesia's BRI Life probes reported data leak of 2 million users
Tokyo Olympics: Chinese athlete abused online after disappointing finish at Tokyo 2020
Speculation over whether Alibaba will re-enter music streaming gains traction after Tencent loses exclusive rights
China moves to protect food delivery drivers from digital exploitation, knocking stocks such as services giant Meituan
China’s tech giants go on hiring spree for fresh graduates despite Beijing’s crackdown on the sector
KLCI ends higher, bucking regional markets’ downtrend
Myanmar floods, coup, complicate growing COVID-19 outbreak

Stories You'll Enjoy