Pakistan leader's proposal assailed


PAKISTAN: Pakistan's military ruler, Gen Pervez Musharraf, faced a torrent of criticism yesterday about proposed constitutional changes that would give him new powers to dictate the country's affairs.

Having pledged to restore civilian rule after he took over in a bloodless coup in 1999, President Musharraf (58) has unveiled proposals that would allow him to sack a civilian prime minister, dismiss the cabinet and dissolve an elected parliament.

The draft constitutional amendments also include plans for a powerful 10-member National Security Council of generals and civilians headed by Gen Musharraf under a system of "checks and balances".

Opposition parties gearing up for elections to a new National Assembly in October rejected the proposals, billed by the government as a blueprint for "sustainable federal democracy", as a transparent attempt to cement the control of the generals.

"Far from making democracy sustainable, the document released by the junta . . . if implemented, will ring the death knell of democracy in the country," the Pakistan People's Party of former prime minister Ms Benazir Bhutto said.

The Pakistan Muslim League led by exiled former prime minister Mr Nawaz Sharif, whom Gen Musharraf ousted in 1999, called the draft amendments a recipe for disaster.

"It is an effort to change the basic structure of the constitution and designed to make the sovereign parliament subservient to the will of one man under the excuse of balance of power."

The Bar Council chairman said the military "should hold elections and go".

Gen Musharraf's spokesman dismissed the criticisms.