THE President hurriedly passed a renewed National Command Authority (NCA) Ordinance, along with a host of other Ordinances, all of which should have come before the Parliament and been passed through that process. The NCA was to expire soon and given that it deals with our nuclear command and control, it could not have been allowed to lapse. However, the President did not simply pass a new NCA Ordinance, he also altered the composition of the NCA in that he handed over all the powers of the President of Pakistan to the Prime Minister. In the new NCA ordinance, the Prime Minister is the Chairman of the NCA instead of the President. The rest of the composition remains unaltered. Previously, the Prime Minister was Vice Chairman of the NCA and four cabinet members, the Foreign, Finance, Defence and Interior Ministers were all part of the Employment Control Committee - the politico-military Committee of the NCA. There is also another Committee of the NCA, which is the Development Control Committee, the military-scientific wing, where the Chairman, JCSC is the Deputy Chairman. The Strategic Plans Division is the Secretariat of the NCA. All three set-ups come under the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the NCA. Contrary to the popular perception the NCA has been in place since February 2000 in this format. While there is a view that the President was compelled to hand over the chairmanship of the NCA to the Prime Minister, because of a growing trust deficit, this is strange because the Prime Minister as Vice Chairman, in the absence of the President, would automatically have taken over. While the reliability of the present holder of the Presidency may be a growing concern, by taking the Head of State permanently out of the NCA is questionable because he is the Supreme Commander of the armed forces also. In such a critical organisation, how can the Head of State be totally sidelined - even if the office were to become purely ceremonial as is anticipated and desired in Pakistan? Even in Britain, it is formally the monarch, as head of state, who declares war. If the present incumbent's credibility is so suspect, as is being given out, then surely he should relinquish the office of the President altogether, rather than continue to undermine its credibility and stature. Ironically, the pressure from all quarters has been for the Presidency to return the political powers grabbed from the Prime Minister by the previous dictatorial dispensation. So the question now is whether the President has made a beginning with the relinquishing of the NCA chairmanship and will move to give up on the political powers and rectify constitutional distortions, or whether he is using the NCA issue as a diversion, while holding on to those political powers? Strange dichotomies are being created within our democratic structures as well as in our sensitive organisations - purely because of one individual's obduracy.