President Zia ul-Haq announced Saturday that Pakistan's suspended 1973 constitution will be revived and amended to make himself an unchallenged head of state, but he promised a gradual end to 7 1/2 years of martial law.
The 60-year-old general, in full military uniform, disclosed the long-awaited constitutional amendments in a 90-minute address on national television and radio a few days after Pakistanis voted for representatives to a 237-seat National Assembly and to provincial assemblies in the first elections since Zia took power.
"My desire is to restore the constitution quickly, but martial law will be lifted step by step," said Zia, who seized power from Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a military coup in July, 1977. Bhutto was later executed.
In the 1973 constitution, suspended after the coup, the presidency was little more than a figurehead position.
Zia said the amendments will allow the president to name the prime minister, his Cabinet, the heads of the armed forces and provincial governors. The president also may dissolve the National Assembly and stage a referendum on any issue.
One amendment adds a clause to the constitution accepting a national referendum that Zia held in December to extend his rule by five years.
Balancing of Powers
Zia described the changes as a balancing of powers between himself and the future prime minister.
"The basic structure of the constitution has not been touched," he said. "It will continue to be parliamentary."
Zia had already made himself head of the newly created 11-member National Security Council, an advisory body that will be composed of political and military leaders.
He did not give a timetable for restoration of the constitution or abolition of martial law, saying only that the National Assembly and Senate will meet on March 23, "and thus democratic institutions will be established."
The National Assembly elected Monday could reject the constitutional amendments, but only with a two-thirds majority and with support from the four provincial assemblies elected Thursday.