Zardari, Sharif decide to clip Musharraf's powers

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Islamabad, Apr 26 (UNI) Co-chairperson of Pakistan Peoples Party Asif Ali Zardari and chief of Pakistan Muslim League (N) Nawaz Sharif have decided to clip the powers of the president through a constitutional amendment.

The coming constitutional package will change the whole balance of power in Pakistan and President Pervez Musharraf will have no option but to resign because he will become a just a ceremonial president, local daily The News reported today.

The paper quoted sources as saying the real target in the coming constitutional package would not be the office of the chief justice but the president.

Initially, Nawaz Sharif was of the view that President Musharraf must be tried in a court of law under treason charges but Asif Zardari disagreed.

He suggested that instead of targeting one individual, they must target the powers of the president, which were used to weaken democracy in Pakistan.

Mr Zardari told the ex premiere that the Army high command would react negatively to any humiliation of their former chief.

Mr Zardari has also assured Mr Sharif that he was determined to implement the Murree Declaration of March 9 in which both the leaders had promised to restore the deposed judges within 30 days of making the new government.

The PML (N) chief was of the view that this 30-day period would end on April 30.

Mr Zardari agreed with Mr Sharif in their last meeting but they also discussed some legal problems. A 6-member joint PPP-PML-N committee has been trying to iron out the differences.

Law Minister Farooq Naek has informed the committee that a simple resolution passed by the National Assembly will have no legal force to restore the deposed judges.

He argued that the resolution would show only the sentiments of the people and then the prime minister could issue an executive order to restore the judges.

But that order must be issued according to the Constitution and law. Mr Naek said that according to the Supreme Court Judges Act 1997, the number of SC judges was 17.

There are 17 judges working already in the SC and the number of restored judges will be 10 (including Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and minus Justice Javed Iqbal) and in that case, the total number of judges will reach 27.

He informed the committee that in order to increase the SC strength from 17 to 27, the parliament needed to pass a new act.

This act needs endorsement by president in 30 days.

The PML-N members of the committee are of the view that according to Article 182 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court could have more than 17 ad hoc judges.

They said that there were 19 judges in the SC in July 2007. They suggested that all the deposed judges could be restored immediately on an ad-hoc basis and then a new act could be passed to make them permanent judges. This act will only need simple majority.

It was also learnt that PPP suggested 4-year tenure for the chief justice while the PML-N favoured consulting the Supreme Court Bar Association in this regard.

UNI XC RJ HS1430

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