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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Pakistani President Shifts Nuclear Control to Prime Minister

VOA News 28 November 2009

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has transferred control of the country's nuclear arsenal to his prime minister.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar announced late Friday that the National Command Authority, which is responsible for nuclear weapons, is now under the authority of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Babar called the move "a giant leap forward to empower the elected parliament and prime minister."

Mr. Zardari has seen low approval ratings as Pakistan battles with Taliban violence and a struggling economy.

Analysts say he is trying to protect his political future by shifting more power to parliament.

The decision comes as an amnesty protecting the president and about 8,000 other Pakistanis from corruption charges expired Saturday.

Mr. Zardari cannot be prosecuted because of presidential immunity, but the country could fall into political chaos if corruption charges were reinstated against those close to the president.

Legal experts say opponents could use the amnesty to lawfully challenge Mr. Zardari's eligibility for office.

Former President Pervez Musharraf introduced the amnesty in 2007 under a plan to share power with Mr. Zardari's wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was later assassinated.

Mr. Zardari spent years in jail for corruption charges and bears the nickname "Mr. Ten Percent" due to his reputation for taking kickbacks after awarding government contracts.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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