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Pakistan - President

The position of President in Pakistan has traditionally been one of a figurehead, with actual powers lying with the Prime Minister. However, at various times in history, often related with military coups and the subsequent return of civilian governments, changes in the Constitution have altered the powers and privileges associated with the Office of the President. The current Constitution gives the President reserve powers, subject to Supreme Court approval or veto, to dissolve the National Assembly, triggering new elections, and thereby dismissing the Prime Minister.

The president, in keeping with the constitutional provision that the state religion is Islam, must be a Muslim. Elected for a five-year term by an electoral college consisting of members of the Senate and National Assembly and members of the provincial assemblies, the president is eligible for reelection. But no individual may hold the office for more than two consecutive terms. The president may resign or be impeached and may be removed from office for incapacity or gross misconduct by a two-thirds vote of the members of the parliament. The president generally acts on the advice of the prime minister but has important residual powers. One of the most important -- a legacy of Zia -- is contained in the Eighth Amendment, which gives the president the power to dissolve the National Assembly "in his discretion where, in his opinion . . . a situation has arisen in which the Government of the Federation cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and an appeal to the electorate is necessary."

In 2010, the Parliament passed the Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Pakistan, removing the power of the President to dissolve the Parliament unilaterally, turning Pakistan from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary republic. The amendment is expected to ease political instability in Pakistan and counter the sweeping powers amassed by the President's Office under former Presidents Pervez Musharraf and Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.

The historic 18th Amendment reversed many infringements by military rulers over several decades on the Constitution of Pakistan. The amendment was passed by the Senate on 15 April 2010 and became an Act of Parliament when President Asif Ali Zardari put his signature on the bill on 19 April 2010. It was the first time in the history of Pakistan that a president willingly relinquished a significant part of his powers and transferred it to Parliament and the Office of the Prime Minister. No elected government in Pakistan has ever completed its full term. This bill is the first bill since 1973 to decrease the powers of the president.

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Page last modified: 31-05-2020 20:38:59 ZULU