Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday signed into law sweeping constitutional reforms relinquishing key powers in a move to bolster parliamentary democracy weakened by military rule.
Zardari signed the amendment removing the head of state’s power to sack the prime minister and dissolve parliament. The signing ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif.
Under question now is the political future of the Pakistan president with analysts commenting that Zardari may have given up some powers but at the same time has strengthened his position in the long term.
Political analyst Absar Alam comments that by signing away the power to appoint the army chief and overseeing the country’s nuclear program, he has “taken the heat off himself.”
Alam said that the vested interests in Pakistan’s establishment do not see Zardari treading on their toes anymore. “This will help him stay in power in the long run.”
Zardari’s supporters also understand the significance of what he is doing. “This is an historic day,” Law Minister Babar Awan told dignitaries gathered at the presidential offices. “For the first time in the history of this country, a democratically elected president has voluntarily given up his power back to the parliament of this country,” he said.
What Awan does not say is that this move gives breathing space to the President to focus on more pressing issues.
“The battle I forsee is with the judiciary over the corruption cases,” comments political analyst Talat Masood. He says that by and large, Zardari remains quite powerful.
“He is the chairperson of the ruling party. There is no challenge to his authority there. In comparison, the prime minister does not have such a strong support base in the party.”
As the requirement of holding elections within the party was also done away with in the 18th Amendment, Zardari will remain leader for life of the party.