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Zardari hands over n-command to Gilani

Embattled President Asif Ali Zardari late on Friday transferred control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and said he intended to strip the presidency of more powers by year-end.....

Written by Press Trust Of India | Islamabad | Published: November 29, 2009 2:12:05 am

Embattled President Asif Ali Zardari late on Friday transferred control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and said he intended to strip the presidency of more powers by year-end.

Zardari gave up his control over the nuclear arsenal by re-promulgating the National Command Authority Ordinance and amending it,presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

“Transferring the chairmanship of the National Command Authority to the Prime Minister is giant step forward to empowering the elected Parliament and the Prime Minister,” Babar said.

Zardari also said that the 17th Constitutional amendment — which gives the President powers to dismiss the Premier and dissolve Parliament — will be done away by December.

“We wanted to abolish the 17th amendment from day one but we wanted to do it through a unanimous decision,(just) as the 1973 Constitution was approved unanimously,” he said,referring to the Constitution framed during the tenure of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) founder Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

Former ruler Pervez Musharraf was responsible for creating the National Command Authority and pushing through the 17th constitutional amendment to give himself sweeping powers. Following the re-promulgation of the National Command Authority Ordinance,the Prime Minister will chair the body that controls the nuclear weapons.

Under an order issued by Pakistan’s Supreme Court in July,the government was required to get several ordinances issued by Musharraf endorsed by Parliament by November 28.

Since the government was unable to do so due to pressure from political parties,Zardari re-promulgated 27 ordinances. Babar said these ordinances were re-promulgated on the advice of Gilani as they could not be passed by both houses of Parliament within the deadline of November 28.

Significantly,the President did not re-promulgate the National Reconciliation Ordinance which was issued by Musharraf to scrap graft cases against several PPP leaders,including Zardari and his slain wife,Benazir Bhutto.

“According to our legal team,the President has indemnity and (his) eligibility cannot be challenged now,” Zardari said hours before the lapse of the NRO. Zardari enjoys general immunity from prosecution as President,but the Supreme Court could choose to challenge his eligibility for the post since the amnesty decree by Musharraf was never formally approved by Parliament.

In July,the Supreme Court had said that the NRO would lapse on November 28 if the government did not get it ratified by Parliament. The PPP-led government was forced to abandon plans to get the law endorsed by parliament due to pressure from political parties.

Under the ordinance,promulgated on October 5,2007 — a day before the presidential polls which Musharraf swept — in an apparent gesture of reconciliation with political parties,graft cases against Benazir Bhutto,Zardari and many other politicians were quashed. The PPP won subsequent elections in February 2008,restoring civilian rule.

The President’s supporters in the ruling PPP have said cases scrapped under the NRO are “past and closed transactions” and Zardari cannot be prosecuted as long as he is President.

Gilani PRO admits Headley is his half-brother,not related to PM

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s public relations officer on Saturday acknowledged that David Coleman Headley,a terror suspect detained in the US,is his half-brother but dismissed as incorrect reports that his family is related to the premier.

Public relations officer Danyal Gilani said in a statement that Indian media reports “trying to establish a relationship between Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the family of detained US terror suspect and my half-brother,Daood Gilani alias David Coleman Headley,is incorrect,misplaced and totally baseless”.

The report is based on speculation and is intended to create “unnecessary hype”,Danyal Gilani said. He said his ancestors migrated to Pakistan from Jastarwal in India’s Punjab state and Etawah in UP while the premier’s family has been living in Multan “for centuries” and the two families “have no relationship with each other”.

Danyal Gilani also acknowledged that the PM had issued a condolence message on his father Syed Saleem Gilani’s death in December last year and visited his house to offer condolences. “This he did out of courtesy because I was working as his PRO and also because my father was a renowned broadcaster and a known personality of his time. At that time Daood (Gilani) was not in Pakistan,” he said.

Danyal Gilani said he had been working as the PRO to the Premier since 2005. He also offered some details about his half-brother Daood,saying,“His having another name or changing his name at some stage in life has come as a surprise to me.”

Singh,Obama discussed Headley issue

Washington: US National Security Adviser James Jones said Barack Obama has shown personal interest in the Headley-Rana case discussed it during his meeting with Manmohan Singh on Tuesday. “It is something that the President and the Prime Minister discussed and both of them were very satisfied with the outcome of those discussions,” Jones said. He said Obama has given instructions to US authorities to share the information with India regarding Headley-Rana case despite the limitation posed by the country’s legal system.

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