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President Zardari’s Constitutional Reforms – by Anas Muhammad

Nicolas Sarkozy receives Asif Ali Zardari in ParisMonday April 19, 2010 – President Zardari made history by signing the landmark constitutional reforms amendment bill into law. Zardari – after taking office 18 months ago – pledged to reform the constitution. He promised that all the anomalies that were created by the dictators to protect their powers will be removed from the constitution. After this amendment the powers he inherited from the former President, General Pervez Musharraf, has been reverted back to the Prime Minister. The significance of this gesture is that Zardari is the first President in Pakistan’s history to give up his powers and act as a figurehead President as the original constitution intended.

A great milestone was achieved when the Parliamentary Constitutional Reforms Committee finished drafting the bill for the 18th Amendment in Pakistan’s constitution. After 9 months of deliberations the committee, that represented all Parliamentary parties, came to a unanimous consensus on amending around 100 articles of Pakistan’s current constitution. Majority of the changes are made in effort to revert back to the original spirit of Pakistan’s 1973 constitution. This was followed by a week’s debate in National Assembly, where it passed unanimously, and later passed by the Senate after another week long debate.

Reforming the constitution after 37 years of its creation was not the only milestone this president completed in his 18 months in office. Creating consensus on a landmark National Finance Commission (NFC) Award was another tangible achievement by Zardari regime. The NFC Award along with the 18th Constitutional Amendment is aimed at giving the provinces more autonomy and decentralizing the authority and finances from the center to the provinces.

Pakistan’s media, which is overwhelmingly right leaning, opposes many of President’s policies and term him as a “unpopular president.” The media and press in Pakistan act like Fox News on steroids, giving it all they can to prove their point; whether it be conspiracy theories, one sided polls, false sense of nationalism, or even fortune tellers to predict the future of Zardari regime.

The flip-side of all the media’s Zardari-phobia is that the president might as well turn out to be one of the most powerful civilian presidents in Pakistan’s history. He had not only brought the institutional and democratic reforms as mentioned earlier, but also benefited and strengthened his party to great extremes. Holding the party together after the death of Ms. Benazir Bhutto, and leading the party to a victory in the, February 2008, general election polls was a tremendous task. He didn’t stop there; creating government of his Prime Minister, forging alliances with parties to make governments in all four provinces, taking majority in Senate without any tussle, having a chairman senate from his party, and leading his party to victory in Gilgit Baltistan, the newly formed unofficial province of Pakistan.

After his grand achievement, President Zardari, is back on the road selling the accomplishment of his government to the people while announcing and inaugurating various development projects along with organizing his party for upcoming local bodies’ elections. President Zardari has said that his party has completed eighty percent of work from their election manifesto and will continue to work for improving the lives of poor people of Pakistan.

As the President has transfered his powers to the parliament, it is up to them and all the political parties elected in the parliament, to focus on the issues that matter to the public the most. After the passage of 18th Amendment, It is high time that all parties should also create consensus over  other national issues such as the energy shortfall, inflation, and economy.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @ FPA