Zardari tries to mend strained relations with Sharif
Islamabad: Facing dilution of his powers by a bill introduced in Parliament, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is seeking to mend fences with opposition PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.
Zardari telephoned Sharif and congratulated him on the tabling in Parliament of the package, popularly known as the "18th constitutional amendment bill”.
Zardari said the credit for the package goes to all political parties for "showing maturity and rising above partisan politics in larger national interest”.
The president hoped the 18th constitutional amendment will be passed by the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament at the earliest.
He also said the ruling Pakistan People's Party and he will continue to work with Sharif in the "spirit of reconciliation and mutual accommodation”.
Relations between Zardari and Sharif have been strained since the PML-N quit the PPP-led federal government in 2008 after accusing Zardari of reneging on several promises.
Sharif stymied the PPP's plans to table the reforms package in Parliament last month by raising objections to the proposed renaming of the North West Frontier Province and the
procedure for appointing judges. The reforms package was finalised this week after the PPP and its allies addressed the concerns of the PML-N.
The government will also need the PML-N's support for the passage of the amendments, which need to be endorsed by a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament.
Meanwhile, Law Minister Babar Awan, a close aide of Zardari, said a democratically-elected president was returning powers that were "snatched by despotic rulers" to Parliament for first time in Pakistan's history.
With the passage of the 18th constitutional amendment bill, the Parliament will get its real powers and changes inserted by oppressive rulers will be annulled, he told reporters.
Zardari will address a joint session of the Senate and National Assembly on April 5 and the reforms package will be taken up both houses the following day.
"The Parliament will pass it unanimously in the same manner that consensus was reached among members of the constitutional reforms committee," Awan said.
Besides annulling the President's powers, the reforms package is aimed at removing changes made to the Constitution by former military rulers Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf to strengthen their grip on power.