Pak president’s powers to be `massively clipped`: Report

The president`s sweeping powers are expected to be "massively clipped" in an upcoming constitutional amendment package in Pakistan, a media report said on Sunday,

Updated: Mar 21, 2010, 14:12 PM IST

Islamabad: The president`s sweeping powers, including those relating to imposition of emergency and appointment of judges, are expected to be "massively clipped" in an upcoming constitutional amendment package in Pakistan, a media report said on Sunday, amid mounting pressure on incumbent Asif Ali Zardari to surrender more of his authority.

A draft of the proposed constitutional package to be laid before Parliament later this month indicates that several powers of the president would be massively clipped, `The News` reported.

These powers include his role in appointing judges and chief election commissioner, imposition of emergency, appointment of a caretaker administration and formation of federal government, the daily said.

It quoted a source as saying that final touches were being given to the proposals to do away with two other powers of the president - appointment of the three service chiefs and the dissolution of Parliament under Article 58 2(b) of the Constitution.

In November last year, Zardari had handed over the command of Pakistan`s nuclear arsenal to Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani. Since then, opposition parties have piled pressure on Zardari to give up more power, especially the authority to name Army chief and dissolve Parliament.

The upcoming package states that under the proposed amendment of Article 232 of the Constitution, the president cannot act on his own to declare an emergency without the consent of the provincial assemblies.

A new clause being added to Article 232 states that a resolution will have to be passed by a provincial assembly for imposition of emergency due to internal disturbances beyond the powers of a provincial government to control.

The same article states that if the president acts on his own, the proclamation of emergency will have to be placed before both houses of Parliament to be approved by each House within 10 days.

Under the existing Constitution, the president can impose emergency if he is satisfied that a grave emergency exists in which the security of Pakistan is threatened by war or external aggression or by internal disturbance beyond the powers of the provincial governments to control.

The package also envisages absolute powers to a parliamentary commission to reject, with two-thirds vote majority, any proposed judge of the Supreme Court or High
Court referred to it by the Judicial Commission of Pakistan headed by the Chief Justice of the country.

At the same time, the president`s powers are proposed to be transferred to the Judicial Commission and parliamentary committee of both houses of Parliament.

The package also envisages changes in Article 177 of the Constitution which deals with the powers of the president to appoint judges.

Changes are also being proposed in Article 213 to shift the president`s powers to appoint the chief election commissioner to the prime minister and leader of Opposition.

After over 66 sessions, the parliamentary committee on constitutional reforms has drawn up the draft package that includes some 80 proposed amendments to the Constitution.

The draft recommendations comprise a 60-page compendium with 14 dissenting notes, the Business Recorder newspaper reported.

These amendments have been proposed in 60 articles of the Constitution.