ISLAMABAD – Following his ‘reconciliation policy’, President Asif Ali Zardari has surrendered some more key powers to the parliament under the 20th constitutional amendment, defeating his detractors and elevating his stature in the democratic history of the country.
This achievement made through give and take has strengthened his own position as a major political player in the country as well as increased chances for his ruling PPP to secure another term in office.
This was made possible after hectic wheeling dealings with major opposition forces including the PML-N which got fulfil its demanded that the president would not appoint caretaker prime minister in future. This would now be done with a broader consensus between the outgoing prime minister and other parliamentary forces regardless of whether they are in opposition or part of the treasury.
Although the ruling PPP claims that what President Zardari has done was by and large in line with the political interest of the party, Zardari has proved he is more shrewd a politician compared with his opponents.
Through his strategy to keep friendly ties with the main opposition party PML-N, he has been successful to keep the various factions of Pakistan Muslim League divided, even by sharing power with some of them ostensibly to promote democracy but actually to promote politics of expediency. The PML-Q, PML-F and PML (Likeminded) in one way or the other have been a source of strengthen for the perpetuation of the PPP-led political dispensation, thus leaving no space for any major political manoeuvre by the PML-N.
The consensus among the parliamentary forces to alter the laws related to intra-party elections has been taken as criminal act by many as it would promote the interest of the top leadership of the political parties rather than promoting a healthy and equitable democratic culture in the country. Similarly, because of dubious connect between the treasury and the opposition in bringing a ‘reformed law’ of accountability in the country has been another bargaining chip for the top leadership of the ruling and opposition parties as it servers their vested interest either by keeping pending their corruption cases or get them resolved in due course of time through judicial process. The proposed accountability bill is still pending with the standing committee on Law and Justice apparently for lack of parliamentary consensus.
The PPP-led ruling alliance has done three landmark constitutional amendments starting with the 18th constitutional amendment under which the president abandoned his discretionary power under article 58(2) (B) to dissolve the national assembly. After this amendment the president can only dissolve the national assembly on the mandatory advice of the prime minister.
Similarly, on appointment of judges of higher judiciary, the mechanising has been streamlined through 19th constitutional amendment making it on the basis of mandatory advice of Judicial Commission headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan duly recommended by parliamentary committee.
The mechanism of appointment of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman as well as Chief Election Commissioner of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would now be appointed by the prime minister in consultation with the leader of opposition in the national assembly.
The president however retains mandatory powers to appoint army chief of Pakistan Army and other services chiefs, besides appointment of provincial governors as representatives of the federation.
Though generally these developments would be advantageous to the future democratic process in the country, the typical self-serving political interest at the core is a cause of concern for many, especially if President Zardari remains in the Presidency.
As president, Asif Zardari retains the status of Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of Pakistan, besides his simultaneously being Co-Chairman of the ruling PPP. President Asif Ali Zardari has been ruthlessly using the presidency for political activities while acting as PPP chief. This has been the typical governance style of Asif Ali Zardari and he successfully (miss)used his position for political ends, some opposition leaders maintained during the background discussions.
They were of the view that Zardari has been playing his political cards so successfully while sitting in the Presidency that the mainstream opposition forces could hardly do any political scoring. He has implemented almost all the points of the landmark Charter of Democracy one after the other and thus rendered his political rivals ineffective, but he did so as and when it suited him politically.
Zardari adopted the Mughal era governance style as president at the expense of the national exchequer, they said. At his disposal was more than Rs310 million, allocated in the national budget for 2011-2012, which according to the financial experts would swell to Rs485 million by the end of the current financial year. This amount includes Rs110 million allocated merely for the staff and household of the president and this amount is in addition to Rs39 million being spent on wages of the president’s household servants.
Updated at: 05 December 2013
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