'1973 Constitution to be restored in phases'

ISLAMABAD NOV. 24. The people of Pakistan would have to wait for the dawn of New Year for total restoration of the 1973 Constitution, of course, in the form amended by the President, Pervez Musharraf.

An announcement made by Gen. Musharraf said the 1973 Constitution, suspended after the military coup on October 12, 1999, would be restored in a phased manner and all the Articles would be revived by year-end.

On November 15, hours before he took oath as President for a fresh term of five years, Gen. Musharraf partially revived the Constitution. Opposition parties flayed the move as an attempt to influence government formation at the national and provincial levels. On Saturday, he issued a notification seeking restoration of Articles that dealt with Senate elections, disqualification of members, powers of Governors and Chief Ministers.

Article 63, which deals with the disqualification of MPs, will come into force on the day the Senate takes oath. The Senate elections are likely to be held in the second or third week of December.

The newly-elected Prime Minister, Mir Zafrullah Khan Jamali, managed to secure a simple majority in the National Assembly by a single vote only because ten dissident members of the Pakistan People's Party were able to vote in his favour without fear of losing their membership. Articles 59 to 63 and Articles 232 to 239 would be revived when the Senate took oath. The Articles from 232 to 239, both inclusive, pertain to the President's powers of proclaiming emergency and Parliament's powers to amend the Constitution.

Gen. Musharraf's decision to suspend Parliament's powers to amend the Constitution assumes significance in view of the amendments he has made to the Constitution. While Gen. Musharraf insists he is entitled to make the changes as per the Supreme Court judgement validating the military take-over, the Opposition parties argue that Parliament alone has the powers to amend the Constitution.

The Government also issued the controversial Anti-terrorism Second Amendment Ordinance, 2002, on Saturday. Besides amending some clauses of the Anti-terrorism Act, 1997, it also replaced Section 14 with a new one, spelling out the composition and appointment of judges of anti-terrorism courts.

Opposition parties, human rights groups and media have criticised the new law as "draconian" as it empowered police to detain any person for a year without framing any charges. According to the new Section, a first-class magistrate or an advocate with an experience of 10 years could also be appointed as judges of anti-terrorism courts.