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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in public More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid