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Pakistan constitutional amendment curbing presidential powers signed into law

[JURIST] Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari [official website] on Monday signed into law [press release] the 18th Amendment bill [text, PDF], limiting presidential powers expanded under former military leader Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Under the amendment, which effectively reduces the role of the president to a figurehead, the vast majority of the president's powers will be transferred [AFP report] to the office of the prime minister [official website]. The president will no longer have the power to appoint heads of the armed forces, dissolve the parliament or dismiss the prime minister. In addition, the president may only enact emergency rule after parliamentary approval. Both the National Assembly and the Senate unanimously passed [JURIST reports] the amendment bill earlier this month.

The introduction of the bill comes amid controversy over reopening corruption investigations against Zardari. Earlier this month, Pakistan's attorney general Anwar Mansoor announced his resignation over controversy surrounding a Supreme Court order to investigate corruption allegations [JURIST reports] against Zardari. Last month, Swiss authorities denied a request [JURIST report] from Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau [official website], refusing to reopen a corruption investigation against Zardari. Aides to Zardari believe that presidential immunity protects him from prosecution, even after the Supreme Court overturned an amnesty law [JURIST report] implemented by Musharraf. The amnesty was signed [JURIST report] by Musharraf as part of a power-sharing accord allowing former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC profile] to return to the country despite corruption charges [JURIST report] she had faced.

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