T V Parasuram in Washington
A top United States Congressman Frank Pallone has flayed Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's constitutional amendments as a strategy to protect and extend his dictatorship and introduced a legislation to reintroduce democracy sanctions, lifted earlier this year.
"I am particularly disturbed by Musharraf's actions because I see my concern that Pakistan is being steered away from democracy coming to fruition," Pallone, founder of the India Caucus told the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
"The underlying strategy behind his (Musharraf's) guise of 'transitioning to democracy' is in fact to restructure the Pakistani government to protect his dictatorship," Pallone said.
"Musharraf is planning on changing the Pakistani constitution with the intention of insulating and extending his military rule," he said.
It was clear that from the moment Musharraf overthrew the civilian government in October 1999 through a military coup, followed by a self-proclaimed presidency in 2001, that a return to civilian rule was not a priority, Pallone said.
"These historic actions were followed by further dictatorial abuses such as Musharraf's referendum that extended his power unconstitutionally for five more years. Overall we can see the balance of power shift away from the people of Pakistan to the hands of Musharraf," he said.
"Through over 70 proposed amendments, he is attempting to rewrite Pakistan's Constitution in order to empower his branch of government... Musharraf would also be given constitutional power to dissolve Parliament, dismiss and appoint a prime minister, and establish a National Security Council as a constitutional body," Pallone said.
He said the condition that members of parliament should have university degrees would disqualify 98 per cent of Pakistan's 144 million citizens, and disallow over half of those in last parliament from holding office again.
"This is a blatant attempt by Musharraf to take power away from an overwhelming majority of the population in an effort to keep Parliament under his control," he said.
Pallone also expressed outrage over the continued infiltration by Pakistani-backed militants across the Line of Control and the continued blatant terrorist attacks on innocent women and children in Jammu and Kashmir.
"Much to everyone's dismay, it seems clear that the brutal killing in this war-torn region is going on unabated despite Musharraf's promises... There is no justification for such violence," he said.
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