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President Zardari stripped of powers

President Asif Ali Zardari was stripped of his sweeping powers to dissolve a democratic government after the Pakistan Parliament passed a landmark constitution reform bill with the Senate on Thursday approving it.

world Updated: Apr 15, 2010 21:07 IST

President Asif Ali Zardari was stripped of his sweeping powers to dissolve a democratic government after the Pakistan Parliament passed a landmark constitution reform bill with the Senate on Thursday approving it.

The legislation which also undid changes made to it by former military dictators was today passed by two thirds majority by the members of the Senate or the upper house of parliament.

It approved amendments, including several that will transfer powers from the office of the President to the Prime Minister.

The Senate unanimously approved the amendment with 90 out of the hundred members voting for it and none opposing.

By this thundering verdict by the lawmakers, the reforms package received a parliamentary approval as a week back it was overwhelmingly backed by the National Assembly. Zardari has already announced he would sign the legislation.

"It is a victory of democracy today," a jubilant prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani declared after the runaway vote.

"Approval of this constitutional amendment is a landmark in the constitutional history of Pakistan," he said.

Senate Chairman Farooq Naek announced the passage of the amendments as members thumped their desks. The bill transfers the vital powers of the president including the power to dismiss the prime minister and his cabinet, appoint military chiefs and judges.

Addressing the Senate, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said several changes made to the constitution by dictators had left Pakistan with a government that was neither parliamentary nor presidential.

The 18th amendment bill would remove this ambiguity and strengthen institutions and democracy, Gilani said.

For the first time, the military was supporting democracy while remaining within its constitutional limits, he said.

Gilani said world leaders who attended the recent Nuclear Security Summit hosted by the US had praised the democratic spirit and political maturity shown by Pakistani politicians in endorsing the constitutional reforms.