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4.11.2010

Big constitutional changes in Pakistan

The Associated Press reports that Pakistan's National Assembly has just passed a mammoth package of constitutional amendments, the so-called "18th Amendment Bill." Passage required a two-thirds majority; the actual vote was unanimous. The most noteworthy aspect of the amendment bill-which actually contains a total of 105 amendments to the constitutional text-is the extent to which President Zardari relinquishes power. Among other things, the power to dissolve the National Assembly and appoint the head of the army will shift to the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, the abolition of term limits for the Prime Minister will make it possible for opposition leader Nawaz Sharif not only to assume this office once again, but to do so with newly expanded powers. The President also surrenders the power to appoint senior judges to a commission-a noteworthy change if one recalls the rioting, replete with professionally attired, rock-throwing lawyers, that occurred when former President Musharraf removed Chief Justice Chaudhry from office out of fear that the Supreme Court would invalidate his reelection. More autonomy for Pakistan's provinces is also in the works. Deutsche World and the Economist have brief rundowns of the mega-amendment.

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