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Zardari set to lose sweeping powers

Problems appeared to be multiplying for beleaguered Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari who may be stripped of his sweeping powers, with the government today bringing a landmark bill that could strengthen Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's hands.

world Updated: Apr 03, 2010 02:21 IST

Problems appeared to be multiplying for beleaguered Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari who may be stripped of his sweeping powers, with the government today bringing a landmark bill that could strengthen Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's hands.

The constitutional reforms package, popularly referred to as the '18th amendment,' was tabled in Parliament by Senator Raza Rabbani, a senior leader of the ruling PPP which still has Zardari as its chief.

Rabbani described it as a "bill of hope" that will ensure the people's emancipation and parliamentary supremacy.

"This historic day is dedicated to the memory of (slain former premier) Benazir Bhutto," Rabbani, who led the parliamentary committee on constitutional reforms, said as lawmakers thumped desks.

The bill will be debated by the Senate and National Assembly after President Zardari addresses a joint session of both houses of Parliament on April 5.

The President is already facing the ire of Supreme Court, which wants the government to reopen graft cases against him, including in Swiss courts, after it struck down a controversial graft amnesty issued by ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf that benefitted Zardari and thousands of others.

A day after the apex court gave the April 5 deadline to government to reopen graft cases in Switzerland against Zardari, the President's spokesman said all verdicts of the apex court will be implemented in letter and spirit.

"All the verdicts of the Supreme Court will be implemented in letter and spirit as was done in the past," Presidential Spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

Addressing Parliament before the reforms package was tabled, Prime Minister Gilani said its recommendations will strengthen existing and future institutions and thus ensure good governance and justice.

They will also prevent victimisation and ensure political ownership, he said.

Analysts believe the amendments will be passed without any hitches as the recommendations of the parliamentary panel were endorsed by all major political parties after the PPP and its allies settled differences with the opposition PML-N over contentious issues like renaming North West Frontier Province and the procedure for appointing judges.

The proposed reforms will strip the President of many powers, including the ability to dissolve Parliament and the authority to dismiss Prime Minister and appoint the three service chiefs and other top officials.