Pakistan government is giving finishing touches to a sweeping constitutional amendment package that will clip President Pervez Musharraf's powers and pave the way for reinstating judges sacked by him last year, an issue that has imperilled the fragile ruling coalition.
"The draft is almost complete and it is being finalised. There are a number of amendments in the package," Law Minister Farooq Naek, who has been working on the package with a team of legal experts for the past few days, said.
The package, which will be tabled in parliament as the 18th Constitution Amendment Bill before the forthcoming budget session, would balance the powers between the President and the Prime Minister and introduce strict punishment for subverting the Constitution.
Experts said it would "drastically" alter the constitution and will be bigger in scope than the eighth constitution amendment introduced by late military ruler Gen Zia-ul-Haq nearly 23 years ago.
Asif Ali Zardari, the Chairman of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, has given "specific instructions" that the "feelings and opinions of all sections of society, including the hopes of the public and questions of the legal fraternity, are tackled by the package," Naek said.
He said Article 6 of the Constitution, introduced in 1973, described any move to subvert the constitution as "high treason" but made no mention of which courts will try such cases or procedures under which they would be tried.
"We have changed the definition of treason.... We will also amend the High Treason Act (framed in 1973) and frame new rules," the minister told reporters late last night.