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Pakistan: Landmark Constitutional Amendment Reverses Expanded Presidential Powers

(May 10, 2010) On April 8, 2010, Pakistan's National Assembly, in a rare unanimous vote of the 292 members present, adopted the landmark Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Bill, which has 102 clauses. Some highlights of the legislation are that it:

1) reverses expansion of presidential powers seen in recent years by transferring some of the key powers to Parliament;

2) enhances provincial autonomy;

3) repeals the controversial 17th constitutional amendment of the Pervez Musharraf-era; and

4) removes the name of former President Ziaul Haq from the Constitution.

Although certain clauses met with loud and long desk-thumping in approval, the provision that repeals article 58(2)b, which had given the President discretionary power (arbitrarily assumed by former President Musharraf) to dissolve the National Assembly and to appoint chiefs of the Armed Forces and provincial governors, met with only a subdued response. The bill must by passed by the 100-seat Senate with a two-thirds majority and be signed by President Asif Ali Zardari in order to be put into effect. (Raja Asghar, NA Unanimously Adopts 18th Amendment, THE DAWN, Apr. 9, 2010, available at
; Pakistan Presidential Powers Bill [Pakistan], GAZETTE CITATION, Apr. 8, 2010, JURIST, available at
[has link to the text of the bill].)

In the view of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, “the amendments would restore a 'truly parliamentary system' in the country on the Westminster model … best suited to this region, while the one being replaced and given by dictators was a hotchpotch, neither parliamentary nor presidential.” (Asghar, supra.)