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Bhutto accepts national reconciliation ordinance

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS

Islamabad : Former prime minister and chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Benazir Bhutto has given a go ahead to the draft National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) under which political leaders facing court cases would be given immunity.

“The ordinance will be promulgated any time today,” a minister told IANS requesting anonymity. He said that the federal cabinet late Thursday night gave approval for the ordinance.

On the other hand, the PPP chief has also given clearance to the ordinance. However, Benazir Bhutto said that they all demands have not been met. PPP leader Farooq Naik who was instrumental in drafting and redrafting the agreement said that the ordinance would benefit all the political leaders who are facing court cases.

However, Naik, who is a member of the senate, said that the issuance of ordinance does not mean that all issues have been settled with the military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf, who is contesting the presidential elections scheduled for Saturday for a second five-year term.

“We say that we have reached an agreement after promulgation of the ordinance,” said Naik.

Reports say that the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q) is disturbed over the deal and many of its leaders voiced their concern in a meeting with Musharraf on Thursday evening.

The meeting at Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz’s residence continued till early Friday morning with Musharraf and PML-Q president Shujaat Hussain. “The meeting ended at around four in the morning,” said a PML-Q leader.

The ordinance says that all cases filed before Nov 17, 1999 against holders of public offices stand void and further action would not be taken against them.

A disgruntled PML-Q leader said that Musharraf was dealing with Bhutto just to secure his own rule. “But what about us? We have sacrificed a lot for Musharraf,” he said, adding that after the deal, the PPP will be in power and “we’ll look stupid”

Another PML-Q leader, Tasneem Gardezi, said this is very strange that the PPP is being given all concessions and that party’s all demands are being fulfilled. He said in all last eight years the PML-Q has played on the anti-PPP sentiments and the president is all out to support the PPP.

But on the other hand, the PPP has clearly said that it will not support Musharraf in Saturday’s presidential polls unless he announces to doff the uniform before the polls. “Our members will not vote for Musharraf in uniform,” Bhutto said in London Thursday night.

She said that her party has agreed upon the ordinance but there are other issues. She said that her party is not in favour of a president with assemblies’ dissolution power. “We want a president according to the 1973 constitution,” Bhutto said in a television program.

Under the 1973 constitution, the president is merely a figurehead and can act only on advice of the prime minister. But former military dictator Ziaul Haq got the constitution amended and the president was empowered to dissolve parliament and sack the elected governments.

However, now the president not only can dissolve parliament, but can appoint chiefs of military services and heads the National Security Council where prime ministers sits as ordinary member with four top military generals – three chiefs and one chairman of joint military services.