Apr 182008

By Tariq Butt

ISLAMABAD: The ruling coalition is all set to mete out a constitutional treatment, which was extended to Farooq Leghari by the Nawaz Sharif government in 1998, to President Pervez Musharraf, leaving no option for him but to bow out without facing impeachment.

“The constitutional package in the shape of the 18th Amendment that will be moved in the National Assembly during the current month side by side a resolution for the restoration of the deposed judges will divest the president of all the discretionary and other powers, crippling his authority in all respects,” an informed political source told The News.

He said the constitutional package would include scrapping of the president’s discretionary powers to dissolve the National Assembly [Article 58(2)(b)], appoint the services chiefs, the chief election commissioner and the auditor general of Pakistan.

“After the deletion of discretionary and other powers, Musharraf, who is used to exercise unshared authority for a long time, will call it a day as he is unlikely to continue while having a highly insignificant role,” is what the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in particular and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in general expect, according to the source.

Hardly any space will be left for the president to cling to the presidency with powers gone on which he may fall back and the dismissed judges, including Justice Chaudhry, restored. It would really be something incredible and implausible if he still chose to stay at the top.

The source said that a concrete parliamentary move to impeach Musharraf might create a crisis of unforeseeable nature for the government. The threat of impeachment is being ominously dangled to signal an unmistakable message to the president to exercise the safe option of quitting.

The leading coalition stalwarts feel that the stage of impeaching the president would not come because Musharraf would go before that step, especially after he would be deprived of all the vital powers, making him just a figurehead like Fazal Elahi and Rafiq Tarar.

The source said that the PPP was poised to create a link between the constitutional amendment and the sacked judges-specific resolution although these would be moved, taken up and passed by the National Assembly independently.

The talk of fixing the tenure of the chief justice of Pakistan, primarily relating to the deposed top judge Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, is not totally unfounded. The PPP wants to do so as it has no love lost for Justice Chaudhry. However, it would not be able to achieve its objective because of the massive pressure from its political bedfellow, the PML-N, the lawyers’ community and the civil society. An environment has been created where any such move is unlikely to be received well at the public level and has the potential of spawning disorder and fracas.

When the prime minister and top decision makers like Asif Zardari say ad nauseam that parliament is the competent body to take all kinds of decisions and settle Musharraf’s fate, they in fact are pointing to stripping the president of all the vital powers through the legislature that should be acceptable to all and sundry. Whatever “understanding”, if any, the PPP has with Musharraf, seems to be evaporating in thin air because of the fast-changing political realities. A stage has come where things are not in the PPP’s control and it may not proceed the way it likes.

PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif has good relations with Zardari but he becomes a restless soul, without expressing his feelings, when he finds the PPP not taking the hard-line of his liking against Musharraf. PPP’s apparent somewhat “softness” towards the president is more because of its diplomatic approach so as no unnecessary commotion is created anywhere. It appears that both the main partners have the same objective to achieve, one being in a hurry while the other proceeding steadily and cautiously.

Farooq Leghari quit as president after the then Supreme Court Chief Justice, Sajjad Ali Shah, through whom he was hitting prime minister Nawaz Sharif hard, was ousted by his brother judges. At that stage, Leghari thought that his continuation as president would bring him more insult and ridicule.

Before that, all the constitutional powers of the president (Leghari) were taken away through the famous 14th Amendment that was passed unanimously by the two chambers of parliament in just 10 minutes. For the first time after 1985, the premier (Nawaz Sharif) became the all-powerful chief executive and the president a titular figure.

Source: The News, 18/4/2008

 Posted by at 10:32 am

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