CIVIL SOCIETY PAKISTAN

May 4, 2008

No restoration of judges on May 12: Musharraf ‘may agree’ to dilute his powers – A VIEW OF PRO-MUSHARRAF JOURNALIST

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 4:45 am
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DAILY TIMES

* Use of Article 58 (2b) to be subject to SC approval
* Governors to be appointed on PM’s advice
* President not ready to relinquish powers to appoint services chiefs
* President wants NSC to stay
* Legal experts working on constitutional package

By Najam Sethi

LAHORE: President Pervez Musharraf has indicated that he would agree to a constitutional package to restore the judges and also empower the prime minister in significant ways by diluting some of his (president’s) powers provided he was allowed to stay on with dignity and decide upon his time and method of departure in the medium term himself, highly-placed sources told Daily Times on Saturday.

The sources said presidential aides were in contact with the government to work out a constitutional package acceptable to all stakeholders – Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Supreme Court (SC) judges, President and Army – for a working relationship between all institutions of the state.

The sources said the president was likely to agree to a proposal to dilute his discretionary powers to dissolve the assemblies. However, they said Article 58 (2b) would stay.

“The president’s powers to use Article 58 (2b) would be made stringently subject to the approval of the SC and some guidelines may also be recommended for the apex court in case such a situation develops,” the sources said.

Apparently, the president is not ready to abolish the National Security Council but would agree to a proposal that the provincial governors be appointed on the advice of the prime minister rather than in consultation with him.

However, the sources said the president wanted to retain the powers to appoint the service chiefs. “There is a disagreement on this issue. He wants the appointment of the services chiefs to the president’s prerogative,” the sources said.

It is understood that there is a willingness on the part of the stakeholders to fix the chief justice’s tenure to a five-year term. “But the government does not want deposed judge Justice Javed Iqbal to be restored as this would diminish Justice Dogar’s chances of becoming chief justice on completion of Justice Chaudhry’s tenure,” the sources said.

They said the president was already in a process of consultation with his legal advisers who were in contact with the government to prepare a mutually agreed constitutional package to end the deadlock on critical issues.

The government, the sources said, would soon take all coalition partners and the opposition parties into confidence to build a consensus on the constitutional amendments.

The president has also started meeting his political advisers and members of the PML-Quaid (PML-Q). Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi met him on Saturday to discuss political, judicial and constitutional matters. The PML-Q has already expressed its willingness to support the PPP on a constitutional package that took care of the interests of all stakeholders, particularly the president.

Judges’ restoration: High-level players told Daily Times that the date of May 12 for the restoration of the judiciary was not cast iron and the issue could be dragged well beyond it if any of the abovementioned stakeholders was not on board any solution.

The sources told Daily Times that a couple of possible scenarios were on the table. In the first scenario favoured by the PML-N, the parliament would pass a resolution on May 12 and the PPP government would send an ordinance to the President enhancing the number of judges on the SC from 17 to 26 and the President would pass it quickly. But the greater likelihood is that he would delay it for a maximum of 45 days. During this time, the coalition would get a constitutional package ready and have it passed with the consent of the stakeholders. This would let the PPP and PML-N off the hook as far as public pressure is concerned to restore the judges and put the onus on the President for the delay. The civilians could also make noises about impeaching the president while they get a constitutional package ready.

The other option is for the PPP to back out of the executive order or ordinance route by insisting on moving the constitutional package before the order. In that case the PML-N would consider sitting out of the coalition without leaving it forever.

In both cases, the restoration of the judges will not happen on May 12 even if the resolution is passed because the fate of the judges is intricably linked to that of the other stakeholders.

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