News / Asia

Pakistani National Assembly Votes to Limit Presidential Powers

Pakistani parliament's lawmaking lower house has unanimously approved an amendment in the country's constitution, curbing crucial powers of the president.

The vote on what is being described as the "historic change" in the constitution was shown live on Pakistan's state-run television.  

Of the 342 members in the National Assembly, 292 voted in favor of the legislation, known as the 18th constitutional amendment.

The female speaker of the Pakistani parliament's lower house, Fahmida Mirza, announced the result. "Consequently, the bill is passed by the [National] Assembly by not less than two thirds of the total membership of the Assembly.  So it is passed unanimously," he said.

The legislation will turn President Asif Ali Zardari into a ceremonial head of the state by transferring key powers to the office of the prime minister and the parliament.  The powers include the president's ability to dismiss an elected government, dissolve the parliament and appoint heads of the armed forces.

Pakistan's former military dictator Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, had introduced the powers in the 1980s to maintain control of elected government after declaring himself president of the country.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani while addressing the National Assembly after the vote said that changes military rulers had introduced disfigured the country's constitution.  He says the passage of the bill has now removed those "anomalies" and has empowered the people of Pakistan.

Mr. Gilani said that by approving the legislation lawmakers have made possible what was being considered impossible and have established the sovereignty the parliament.

The constitutional amendment bill, which has cross-party support, must now be approved by a two-thirds majority in the Senate, or upper house and be signed by President Zardari to take effect.   Both are expected to approve the legislation.

While the president has fully backed the bill, it was unanimously drafted by a committee consisting of parliamentarians from both the ruling and opposition parties.

Many in Pakistan believe the 18th constitutional amendment will lead to political stability in the country, a close U.S ally, and will allow the government to pay more attention to deal with the Taliban-led insurgency."

But critics say that being the head of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party in addition to his role as the president of country, Mr. Zardari will still wield significant influence over the government.

Ahsan Iqbal is a member of the parliament and represents a major opposition political party (Pakistan Muslim League-N). "The practice in Pakistan after 1973 [when the existing constitution was passed] was that the president also resigned his party membership so that he could truly be representative of the federation and he could be a symbol of national unity.  But Mr. Zardari has opted to continue with his party's office and if that practice continues and how much indulgence will he have in the policy making of the government, that has the chance of making his office [of the president] controversial," he said.

The legislation would also change the name of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to Khyber Pukhtoonkhaw.  The province borders Afghanistan and parts of the province were until recently known as safe haven for Taliban insurgents.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid