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Gilani says steps will be taken to curtail Prez powers

world Updated: Nov 04, 2009 18:43 IST
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An assertive Pakistan Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani has asked a panel framing recommendations on clipping Presidential powers to "fast track" its work, close on the heels of Asif Ali Zardari shelving plans to ask Parliament to ratify a controversial law that gave him amnesty in graft cases.

Gilani has asked a parliamentary committee to speed up finalisation of recommendations for important constitutional amendments, including the scrapping of provisions that empower President to dismiss Prime Minister and dissolve Parliament.

Zardari dropped a move to get Parliament to endorse the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) -- a law passed by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to scrap corruption cases against leaders of the now ruling PPP -- after several political parties, including the opposition PML-N, said they would oppose it.

Amidst reports of growing differences between Zardari and Gilani, the Premier told the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament yesterday that his party is committed to implementing the Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed by the PPP and PML-N in 2006.

Musharraf had assumed several powers of the Prime Minister, including authority to dissolve Parliament and appoint the armed forces' chiefs.

The CoD envisages stripping the President of his sweeping powers and Gilani said he had asked a Parliamentary panel framing recommendations in this regard to put its work on the "fast track."

Gilani also promised to seek the restoration of "a balance of powers between the presidency and parliament."

He said the courts should decide the fate of the NRO. "We will accept whatever the court decides," he added.

Zardari has said on several occasions since last year that he intends to give up these sweeping powers but he is yet to deliver on his pledges.

Questions about his future have also arisen after he failed to push through the move to get Parliament to ratify the NRO.

Under a Supreme Court ruling issued on July 31, the NRO has to be endorsed by Parliament by November 28.

Legal experts have said corruption cases scrapped under the NRO can be reopened if the law does not get Parliament's backing.

More than 100 corruption and criminal cases involving Zardari and his close aides, which were dropped under the NRO, would be automatically revived after November 28, 'The News' daily reported.

Among Zardari's aides who would be affected are Interior Minister Rehman Malik and presidential Secretary General Salman Faruqui.

Reports said Zardari and Gilani were also divided on the issue of whether the NRO should be brought before Parliament. Gilani and a small group of PPP lawmakers outwitted Zardari's aides who wanted the law to be tabled in the House.

After consulting the PPP's allies, Gilani told the President that even members of the ruling coalition would not endorse the NRO.

The lawmakers backing Gilani cautioned Zardari that the issue could be used in a campaign against the government and that the apex court could strike down the NRO even if it was ratified by Parliament.

It was then that Zardari decided not to bring the law before Parliament.

"The fiasco over the NRO has weakened the President's political position further and at the moment there is no evidence that Mr Zardari and his team of advisers have what it takes to recover lost ground, let alone build a successful presidency from the shambles it has been reduced to," the influential 'Dawn' newspaper said in its editorial.

Zardari alone is to blame for the PPP's status as "an isolated and increasingly battered party" while Gilani is "looking increasingly good in comparison to the President and it doesn't appear that the Prime Minister is particularly worried that he may be showing up his party boss," the editorial said.