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Pakistan’s Ruling Party Hopes to Clip Musharraf’s Power

In its first substantial move since taking power, the main political party in Pakistan has proposed sweeping constitutional changes designed to limit the authority of President Pervez Musharraf.

But at the same time, the proposals by the Pakistan Peoples Party, led by Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, validate Musharraf’s dismissal last year of the chief justice of the Supreme Court and other high court judges. That is something that could lead to a new standoff with the nation’s lawyers.

The leader of the lawyers’ movement, Aitzaz Ahsan, who is fighting for the restoration of the dismissed chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, said he rejected the proposed constitutional amendments that applied to the judges. They would weaken the independence of the judiciary rather than strengthen it, as the Peoples Party had promised, he said.

Ahsan, who is a senior member of the Peoples Party, said the lawyers would march from different cities around the country next week and converge on the national Parliament to demand the reinstatement of the chief justice and the other judges.

Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Protest Weaker This Year

A somewhat smaller crowd than in prior years turned out here on Wednesday evening for the annual candlelight vigil commemorating the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, the participation depressed by a growing reluctance among many Hong Kong residents to confront Beijing officials on human rights issues.

Enthusiasm for the coming Olympic Games in Beijing, sympathy for victims of the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province, and growing prosperity in Hong Kong because of mainland China’s economic boom have combined to weaken the city’s once-vigorous protest movement.

Even Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the highest official of the Roman Catholic Church in China and a vociferous critic of Beijing’s human rights record for many years, has moderated his tone in the past several weeks.

Zen, who is also the bishop of Hong Kong, surprised many here on Monday when, in a special Mass for earthquake victims, he praised China for its openness in handling the earthquake rescue effort.

Borders Concern Afghans’ New NATO Chief

As the new commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan expressed fresh concern over rising activity by militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, two powerful suicide bombs killed two people and wounded several others near the Pakistani border on Wednesday.

One car bombing occurred in the eastern Afghan province of Khost and demolished a government office, killing an official and wounding eight civilians visiting the building.

The second appeared to be aimed at a Canadian military convoy in the southern province of Kandahar near the border town of Spin Boldak. Two children were wounded, one of whom later died, according to a local border official, Abdul Razzaq.

The bombings unfolded a day after a U.S. general, David D. McKiernan, assumed command of some 52,000 NATO troops in the country.

At a news briefing in Kabul, McKiernan said he shared the concerns of his predecessor, Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who is also an American, about rising militancy emanating from Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. He said he would be taking up the issue with Pakistan.