Benazir for bringing Army under Parliament

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Islamabad, Oct 11: Former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto has said the Army should be brought under the control of Parliament for greater transparency and accountability.

''Under the present military-doctored Constitution, the armed forces are under the President's command. The political parties would need to unite to bring control of the armed forces back to Parliament for reform to take place,'' Ms Bhutto was quoted as saying in an interview in Washington.

The Pakistan People's Party chief, who is living in a self-imposed exile, said if elected her party would work to constitutionally separate the offices of the President and the Army Chief.

''The PPP has signed a Charter of Democracy calling upon political parties to make the members of the armed forces answerable to Parliament, as they are in Washington, London and Paris, for greater transparency and accountability,'' she said.

She said it was important to do away with the powers of the President to dismiss an elected parliament in his discretion. ''It will be an ideal amendment to the Constitution. It will prevent a return to the dysfunctional democracy of the 1990s,'' Ms Bhutto said.

There are other issues that need attention, such as lifting the military-imposed ban on a twice elected prime minister contesting elections for a third time, and appointment of governors, members of the judiciary and the Election Commission, she said.

''These issues are part of our negotiations (with Pakistan government) and will happen in a phased manner. Some steps have already been taken, like the arrangements to shed uniform, the counting of ballots, stopping horse-trading by preventing arrest of parliamentarians without permission of an Ethics Committee, end to political victimisation and national reconciliation.

''I hope other issues like the eligibility of prime ministerial candidates and balance of power between Parliament and Presidency will also be resolved in due course,'' the former prime minister said.

Referring to her talks with the government, Ms Bhutto said she was not striking any deal with the Army, but working for transition to democracy in which Parliament was sovereign and the ''military performed its constitutionally ordained duties''.


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