Parliament passed a bill on 1 April ending the controversial presidential power to dismiss the prime minister and dissolve parliament. The amendment to the constitution was passed by votes of 190-0 in the 217-member National Assembly (lower house) and by 79-0 in the 89-seat Senate (upper house). The bill also makes the appointment of armed forces’ chiefs and provincial governors by the president subject to the approval of the premier. Sharif said that the move had the support of President Farooq Leghari.
The constitutional power, introduced by late president General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, has been used to dismiss four prime ministers in just eight years. The most recent dismissal was that of Benazir Bhutto on 5 November 1996.
Observers say that the move will contribute to political stability in the short term. However, they express concern that in the event of extreme unpopularity – such as that experienced by Bhutto – the change in the law could make direct military intervention more likely. The military remains influential and military leaders have a formal advisory role through the Council for Defence & National Security. The council was created by Leghari under the administration of the recent caretaker government.