Musharraf wins sweeping powers

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf won vast powers, including the authority to dismiss the elected government, as the Senate approved a set of sweeping constitutional amendments despite opposition protests yesterday. 

The National Assembly passed the constitutional amendment bill on Monday by a two-thirds majority. 

The Senate approval means Musharraf will stay in power until late 2007, subject to a formal vote of confidence tomorrow, and remain as military chief until the end of next year.  

He took power in a bloodless coup in October 1999, before handing over some powers to a prime minister after elections in October last year.  

The bill was approved in the Senate by 72 of the 100 house members, with opponents staging a walkout, government officials said. 

The ruling coalition won the votes of a hard-line Islamic alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), to get the required two-thirds majority. 

The MMA, which vehemently opposes Musharraf's decision to side with the United States in the war on terror, has said it supported the amendments to end a political deadlock that had paralysed both houses of parliament since last year's election. 

The main opposition, Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), said Islamic parties had once again proved themselves to be allies of the military, as they have often been in the past. 

“It is a black day in Pakistan's history because parliament has circumvented its own powers,” said senior ARD leader, senator Raza Rabbani. – Reuters  

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