Thursday, November 20, 2008

Benazir Bhutto: Before her death - 16

Musharraf-PPP deal before polls by Mayed Ali

LAHORE: The National Assembly is expected to take up, at least, three constitutional amendments for changes in the Article 63-1-(k), the Article 43 (1) and the Chief Executive Order of 2002, protected under the 17th Amendment for electing President Musharraf for another five-year term, The News has learnt.

These proposed amendments are part of the Musharraf-PPP deal, which is expected to be executed before the president’s election between mid-September and mid-November this year. This deal, if put in place through these proposed amendments, will enable Benazir Bhutto to become the prime minister after the next elections, besides giving the president the lever to get re-elected for the next five years. The president does not have any other legal option for staying in power for five more years, with or without uniform, but to get the Constitution amended with the help of any big group, which could help getting the required two-third majority.

The president’s re-election to the same office largely depends on constitutional amendments to the articles 43-1, 63 (1) (d) and (k) (Article 63-1 [d] and [k] relate to president when read with (Article 41-2) clauses even without the uniform.

The articles 43-1, 63(1) (d) and (k) and all related articles were suspended for different periods under Article 41-7 (a) (b) through the 17th Amendment. The most important articles were 43-1 and 63 (1) (d) and (k). Of all the suspended articles, Article 63 (1) (d) was to come into force on December 31, 2004, while Article 43 and 63-1(k) would stand restored in mid-November once the president’s current tenure would expire.

The Article 43 had been suspended till November 14, 2007 under Article 41 (7) (a) and (b) as part of the 17th Amendment for giving legitimacy to President Musharraf for holding the office, and that too in uniform.

The Article 43-1 of the Constitution says, “Conditions of president’s office: The president shall not hold any office of profit in the service of Pakistan or occupy any other position carrying the right to remuneration for the rendering of services.”

Similarly, the Article 63-1(k) says, “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of parliament, if he has been in the service of Pakistan or of any statutory body or any body which is owned or controlled by the government or in which the government has a controlling share or interest, unless a period of two years has elapsed since he ceased to be in such service.”

Since the Article 43-1 will come into force in November this year and the president will no longer have immunity from other related articles as provided through Article 41-7(a)(b) after the completion of his tenure, he will not be able to get himself elected in any circumstances unless he manages these constitutional amendments.

He cannot sail smoothly by getting an act enacted through simple majority as he did the last time after Article 63-1(d) was restored on December 31, 2004, which warranted the president to quit one office immediately under the constitutional proviso of the Article 41-7(b). The legal wizards know the spin given to the law under the trick of ‘Validation of Presidential Act’ is not possible this time.

This implies the president is desperate to either get the Constitution amended or to go for Martial Law once again. Ms Bhutto knows this as well. She also knows there is no room for the rightwing parties in the next political set-up. So, Musharraf will have to bank on the PPP. He will have to get the Constitution amended from the same assemblies as the genie of Article 43-1 and other related articles is going to come out with the lapse of his tenure, which is surely coming first well before the general elections.

So, what will the PPP get for supporting the president’s re-election? It is learnt the PPP has managed to get a deal in the shape of another constitutional amendment — change in Article 270 AA. This article is the part of the 17th Amendment and gives ‘validation and affirmation to all laws’ promulgated by the president since his takeover on October 12, 1999.

With this amendment, the Chief Executive Order, through which he barred the prime minister from running for the third time, would also be changed so Benazir Bhutto should be left with the chance to assume the office.

Sources in the government and the PPP say the deal has almost been finalised. However, there are two hitches — one being lack of trust among the two parties and the other the fear Benazir has with regard to strong a political backlash.

It has been learnt Benazir Bhutto wants the US to be a guarantor of the deal, ensuring President Musharraf would not ditch her before or during the polls by resorting to unfair means and also not sending her home after her election as the PM through Article 58-2(b), which is in effect already.

On the other hand, the sources add, President Musharraf is uncomfortable with this suggestion and wants the Saudi Arabia-UAE duo to be the guarantors. This option is not acceptable to Benazir Bhutto at this point in time.

In addition to this, Benazir is having chills down her spine in view of the feedback she is getting for clinching the deal. A majority of her party leadership, the electorate and her political allies are staunch opponents of this proposed understanding.

On the other side of the political divide, the Chaudhrys are watching the whole political scenario unfolding very closely. The movement of their anti-camp and the efforts to broker a successful deal with the PPP is a cause of concern for them. There are chances of great political changes in the wake of a deal between the government and the PPP. The Chaudhrys camp in the ruling party might search for some consolation in the deserted PML-N. In such an event, new political alliances are expected to surface with PML-N, PML-Chaudhrys, the rightwing parties and all other anti-Musharraf parties joining hands in the post-Musharraf election scenario.

There is every possibility the proverb ‘there are no permanent political enemies or allies’ might prove right in case Benazir Bhutto and President Musharraf enter into any sort of political alliance.

Musharraf-PPP deal before polls By Mayed Ali

Tuesday, June 05, 2007, Jamadi-ul-Awal 19, 1428 A.H.

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