Islamabad: Pakistan is set to enact major constitutional reforms after an all-party parliamentary committee resolved two contentious issues and finally signed an historic consensus-based accord.
The head of the 27-member committee, ruling Pakistan People's Party senator Raza Rabbani, presented the draft of proposed 18th Amendment to National Assembly speaker Dr. Fehmida Mirza and Senate chairman Farooq at the Parliament House in Islamabad yesterday.
The document, fruit of nine months of hard work by the committee, was initialled at a ceremony late Wednesday night by representatives of all political parties.
The way for the momentous event was cleared after the main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-N of former premier Nawaz Sharif, and the Awami National Party agreed on new name of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa for the North West Frontier Province, which is ruled by the latter.
Also, the PML-N suggestions about the composition of proposed judicial commission on appointment of judges were accepted by the committee, removing the second hurdle to finalisation of the draft.
The 18th Amendment bill, which is designed to make a sweeping overhaul of the constitution and rectify the distortions introduced during military dictatorships, is expected to be tabled today in the National Assembly.
Following that President Asif Ali Zardari will address a joint sitting of the 342-member National Assembly and 100-member Senate (upper house), on Monday, April 5, to fulfil a constitutional requirement, according to a government announcement.
As politicians exchanged greetings over the conclusion of the crucial tasks of the parliament committee and Pashto-speaking majority in the northwestern region celebrated the proposed new name for the province, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani held a meeting with Nawaz Sharif.
Private ARY channel said that during the meeting at Sharif's Raiwind estate near Lahore, the prime minister invited PML-N leadership to rejoin the ruling coalition. The PML-N had withdrawn from the coalition in the initial phase of the democratic government because of a row over judges' restoration issue.
The report did not say what the response of the PML-N chief was to Gilani's offer, but the accord on constitutional reforms was seen as a wholesome development for relations between the two major political forces and for consolidation of the democratic system.
The reforms Bill, after being adopted by the National Assembly with a two-thirds majority, would need similar endorsement by the Senate to come into force after signature by the president.
The room in which the signing took place at the Parliament, has been named "constitutional room", Speaker Mirza told reporters. She said the restoration of the original 1973 constitution would shut the door on dictatorship for ever.