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Zardari vows to clip President's controversial powers

Source: PTI
September 04, 2008 20:00 IST
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Pakistan's ruling Pakistan Peoples Party chief Asif Ali Zardari, the front-runner in the race for presidency, vowed on Thursday to trim the president's sweeping powers, which included authority to dissolve Parliament and dismiss the prime minister.

'If I am elected president, one of my highest priorities will be to support the prime minister, the National assembly and the senate to amend the constitution to bring back into balance the powers of the presidency and thereby reduce its ability to bring down democratic governance,' Zardari said in an Op-Ed piece in The Washington Post.

His comments came ahead of the September 6, presidential poll in Pakistan, which will witness a triangular contest among Zardari, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's nominee Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui and PML-Q's Mushahid Hussain Sayed.

'Two military dictators, Mohammed Zia ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf, reconfigured the constitution to consolidate their power; they broadened the president's responsibilities to include the authority to sack democratically elected governments,' Zardari said.

Amid allegations that his party's government resorted to the 'selective' reinstatement of judges sacked by Musharraf during the emergency rule last year, he said it is essential that Pakistan's independent judiciary must be reconstituted. The Pakistan government has so far restored 12 of the 60 deposed judges.

Former Premier Nawaz Sharif's PML-N recently withdrew from Pakistan's PPP-led ruling coalition accusing Zardari's party of reneging on several agreements to restore the deposed judges at one go. Sharif had also demanded that the President's sweeping powers should be curtailed.

In the Op-Ed piece, Zardari said the majority of Pakistan's people have been "ignored and even subjugated"
by the country's' establishment', a euphemism for army.
'This concentration of unchecked power has strained our government to the point of fracture. The PPP is the only party with support in all four provinces as well as in (Pakistan-occupied) Kashmir and the federally administered tribal areas. The PPP's success in democratising the presidency will strengthen Pakistan's viability as a nation,' Zardari said.
Zardari said Pakistani politics has always been a struggle between democratic forces around the country and "an elite oligarchy, located exclusively in a region stretching between Lahore and Rawalpindi-Islamabad."
"The provinces of Sindh, North West Frontier (Province) and Balochistan, as well as all of rural Punjab, have often been excluded from governance," Zardari said in the article titled Democracy Within Our Reach.
Zardari's comments in The Post come against a backdrop of private concerns expressed in  the US and elsewhere on his running for the Presidency.

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