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Thursday, 22 August, 2002, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Opposition to 'undo' Musharraf powers
President Musharraf
Musharraf says he is strengthening democracy
Opposition parties in Pakistan say they will do their best to block sweeping new powers which military ruler General Pervez Musharraf has granted himself.


General Musharraf might as well declare himself as the absolute monarch for life

Pakistan People's Party
They accuse the president of seeking to perpetuate dictatorship under the guise of democracy.

The main opposition alliance, which includes the parties of former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, said constitutional changes could be made only by parliament.

Analysts say the opposition has little alternative but to win control of the national assembly in elections in October.

Sharif supporters
The opposition is up in arms
General Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, announced on Wednesday that he had decreed a string of changes to the constitution - many of which significantly strengthen his position.

Amongst his new powers, he restored his right to dismiss an elected parliament - a power withdrawn by the government of the last prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.

Outrage

"Musharraf has grabbed all the powers and the next prime minister will be helpless," Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, who leads the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy, told reporters in Lahore.


The opposition would undo these amendments if voted into power by the people of Pakistan

Jamaat-e-Islami
The Pakistan People's Party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said: "Musharraf might as well declare himself as the absolute monarch for life."

The Pakistan Muslim League of Mr Sharif said it would use all means short of violence to challenge General Musharraf's rule.

A spokesman for the main Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, said the amendments made a mockery of pledges to restore democracy.

"The opposition would undo these amendments if voted into power by the people of Pakistan."

Lawyers accuse the general of trying to subordinate all constitutional institutions to himself.

The head of the Supreme Court Bar Association in Pakistan, Hamid Khan, said the president's power to dissolve assemblies would mean they would do his bidding.

Security council

The changes, which come after weeks of debate, are part of a package of constitutional amendments designed to accompany the full restoration of democracy scheduled for October.

At a news conference in Islamabad, General Musharraf also confirmed that he would remain in office for another five years following a controversial referendum in April.

National Security Council
President
Prime minister
Leader of opposition
Senate chairman
National Assembly speaker
Four state chief ministers
Three armed forces chiefs
Chairman of joint chiefs of staff
He said he had been given the power to change the constitution by the Supreme Court in a ruling on the legality of his 1999 coup.

Among his new powers, President Musharraf will now be able to choose the heads of Pakistan's army and navy.

And he confirmed that he will set up a National Security Council, including members of the military, to monitor future governments - a plan which deeply worries the opposition.

The opposition says the April vote was massively rigged in his favour of the president, who promised to restore civilian rule after taking power.

And they accuse him of manipulating October's election by passing laws preventing Mr Sharif and Ms Bhutto from returning to power.

The military has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 55-year history.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Phillip Reeker, US Deputy State Dept. spokesman
"It is of vital importance that full democratic civilian rule be restored in Pakistan"
Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

21 Aug 02 | South Asia
21 Aug 02 | South Asia
22 Aug 02 | South Asia
20 Aug 02 | South Asia
05 Aug 02 | South Asia
12 Jul 02 | South Asia
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