Pakistan's embattled President Asif Ali Zardari has transferred control of the country's nuclear arsenal to Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani and said he intended to strip the presidency of more powers by year-end.
Zardari divested himself of the powers of the Chairman of the National Command Authority, which controls the
country's atomic weapons, and transferred them to the prime minister late last night.
The President gave up his control over the nuclear arsenal by re-promulgating the National Command Authority Ordinance and amending it, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.
Babar described the move as a "giant leap forward to empower the elected Parliament and the Prime Minister".
Zardari also said in an interview with a TV news channel that the 17th Constitutional amendment – which gives
President sweeping powers to dismiss the Premier and dissolve Parliament – will be done away with in December.
"We wanted to abolish the 17th amendment from day one but we wanted to do it through a unanimous decision, (just) as
the 1973 Constitution was also approved unanimously," he said, referring to the Constitution framed during the tenure of
Pakistan People's Party (PPP) founder Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf was responsible for creating the National Command Authority and pushing
through the 17th constitutional amendment to give himself sweeping powers.
After being elected last year, Zardari reneged on several promises made to PPP's then ally PML-N to divest the presidency of its powers.
Following the re-promulgation of the National Command Authority Ordinance, the Prime Minister will chair the body that controls the nuclear weapons.
Other members of the body are the Foreign Minister, Defence Minister, Finance Minister, Interior Minister, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the three service chiefs.
Under an order issued by Pakistan's Supreme Court in July, the government was required to get several ordinances issued by Musharraf endorsed by Parliament by November 28.
Since the government was unable to do so due to pressure from political parties, Zardari re-promulgated 27 ordinances.
Babar said these ordinances were re-promulgated on the advice of Gilani as they could not be passed by both houses of Parliament within the deadline of November 28.
Significantly, the President did not re-promulgate the National Reconciliation Ordinance which was issued by Musharraf to scrap graft cases against several PPP leaders, including Zardari and his slain wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto.