President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday asked parliament to approve as soon as possible a sweeping package of landmark constitutional reforms submitted for debate last week. The 18th amendment, which rolls back four decades of infringements by military rulers on Pakistan's 1973 parliamentary constitution, will strip Zardari of key powers in a move to bolster parliamentary democracy. “I call upon the parliament to pass the 18th constitutional amendment bill without delay,” Zardari said in only his third address to a joint session of parliament since taking office in 2008. “The people of Pakistan are keenly watching and waiting for this crucial reforms bill to pass,” he said. “This initiative must lead to new beginnings”. Zardari praised cross-party agreements on hammering out the amendments, which he said would make the constitution, “truly democratic and federal in character and restore provincial rights and parliamentary sovereignty”. The 18th amendment will make the constitution democratic, he said, adding that the people of NWFP will finally get an identity with the province's renaming.

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The provinces will get autonomy like never before, Zardari said, adding that the People's Party has honoured its pledge to restore the parliament's supremacy. The president also pointed out that the government's focus will remain on trade and not on aid. He said that Pakistan seeks peaceful relations with all neighbours and for long-standing peace, the government wants to resolve all outstanding issues with India. Under the constitutional reforms, Zardari would no longer have the power to dismiss the prime minister, dissolve parliament —as enacted multiple times in the past —or appoint the head of Pakistan's powerful armed forces. The 18th amendment would put no bar on prime ministers standing for more than two terms in office. A limited number of opposition party members tried to disrupt Zardari's speech by standing up and shouting slogans against the government.—AFP/DawnNews
By: Dawn News