Though the news hasn’t gotten a huge amount of attention in the U.S., given our discussions of Pakistan’s political situation a couple of years ago, it seems worth noting that Pakistan’s Parliament just passed, and President Zardari signed, a series of reforms designed to make the Parliament stronger and more independent of the executive. The package of reforms is included in a new Amendment to Pakistan’s constitution. Along with the Parliamentary change, there is also an attempt to clarify the relationship between the Judiciary and the Executive branches of Pakistan’s government, so we don’t see a repeat of the power struggle between the Chief Justice of the Pakistan supreme court and former President Pervez Musharraf that began in 2007.
The most detailed summary of the reforms are at the Center for American Progress. I would recommend readers read the whole article, but here is a list of the changes that will affect the relationship between Parliament and the President:
Removing presidential powers to circumvent the normal legislative process and limiting the amount of time the president may consider bills passed by parliament before approving them (Article 75)
Transferring the power to submit matters directly to parliament for a yes or no vote to the prime minister (Article 48)
Removing the infamous Article 58-2(b) instituted by President Musharraf, which granted the power to unilaterally dismiss parliament under vague emergency provisions
Consulting with the outgoing prime minister and opposition leader on presidential appointments of caretaker governments to manage the transition to a new government when parliament is dismissed (Article 224) ()link)
And that’s just one part of the Amendment. The part of Amendment 18 that leaves open some future areas of contention is the reform of the judiciary appointment system, where it seems like some of the planned changes are still up in the air. According to the CAP author, the most contentious issue in the Amendment thus far has actually been the plan to rename the NWFP along ethnic lines, as Khyber-Pakhtunwa. Riots by members of the Hazara community in the region have left several people dead. It’s too bad that there is some dissatisfaction, but the change does certainly make sense to me — Northwest Frontier Province is an old, colonial name that only made sense under the British Raj.
I’m curious to know what readers who have connections to Pakistan think of the changes. Will they be good for Pakistan in the long run? And what about India-Pakistan relations? Overall, I think it’s a really impressive roll-back of executive power — the real end of the Musharraf era, if you will. President Zardari has exceeded my expectations.