Thursday, April 8, 2010

Balance of Power Restored

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly today unanimously approved the 18th Amendment Bill 2010, restoring the 1973 Constitution to its original form and tilting balance of power in favour of Parliament.

The 18th amendment was approved by 292 votes in favour and no votes against, among those present in the 342-member national assembly, announced Speaker Fahmida Mirza.

The bill now needs approval of the Senate to become law.

Members of parliament celebrated their approval of the 102-clause bill with a prolonged thumping of the desks in front of their seats in the chamber.

"It is a matter of celebration for all the democratic parties. Feelings of joy are visible in the house," said Mirza.

"This is a historic day for all of us," she said.

A joyous parliament received on Friday much-awaited proposals for landmark constitutional reforms that restored its lost power and a genuine parliamentary system after its repeated mutilation by military dictators.

Among the major changes emerged from the bill's approval are transfer of some existing presidential powers arbitrarily assumed by former president Pervez Musharraf to the prime minister. They include dissolution of the National Assembly and appointment of chiefs of armed forces' and provincial governors.

The changes include repeal - with some acceptable exceptions - of the Musharraf-era 17th Amendment that validated his decrees, abolition of a concurrent list of subjects to give more autonomy to the provinces, renaming the North West Frontier Province as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They also include removal of the bar on more two terms of a prime minister or chief minister.

Formation of Judicial Commission for appointment of judges and removal of former dictator Gen. Zia's name from the Constitution were among other amendments approved by the House.

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