Analyzing the debate of the Presidential system

The debate for the Presidential System should be taken as a wake-up call by all political players if they desire to save the current dispensation. With amenable legislators, the house can very well pass a constitutional amendment allowing Presidential rule for a limited or extended period of time.

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It is alleged that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) the chief architect of the 1973 constitution desired to enact a Presidential System of government. Only when he failed in getting consensus, did he opt for the current parliamentary dispensation? With our past experience of instability, widespread powers were given to the Prime Minister (PM). His/her removal was made difficult. During the 1977 political crisis, a deadlock was reached. The opposition was demanding re-election for which the PM had to either resign or dissolve the elected assembly. Sardar Shaukat Hayat a stalwart of the Pakistan Movement who had been elected on the PPP ticket tried for in-house change to diffuse the anti-Bhutto campaign but he did not succeed.

Then a vote of no-confidence was moved against Benazir Bhutto by Nawaz Sharif-led opposition in 1989 which failed. As PM only ZAB voluntarily dissolved the assembly ahead of its time hoping to take the disjointed opposition by surprise but in the end, he was surprised by the nine-party alliance that was waiting in the wings for a direct one-on-one contest. Despite the parliamentary form of government, the parliament has not been able to exercise its potential in either removing a PM who has crossed the line or protecting the democratic order in case of his dismissal from outside. Only the 1970 legislature which came through a credible ballot played its innings well rest have been a waste of time and resources.

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The constitution is a sacred document that must be respected and followed

All amendments should be made through the due process of law. Unfortunately, the performance of the current house leaves a lot to be desired. The ‘Moral Awakening’ of the legislators remains very unpredictable. Perhaps their past conduct comes in the way of their principled conduct. Their ‘Zamir’ (Conscience) awakes at very crucial times otherwise it remains in slumber. Over the years the agencies have collected a lot of data that is carefully stored to be used at the appropriate times as and when required. Today the Islamic Republic of Pakistan suffers from a ‘Rogue Democracy’.

Despite the best efforts of the current regime, the accountability process remains very sluggish. There is a lack of seriousness both from the prosecution and the bench, there is no push to bring the process to a close, deadlock exists, neither conviction nor exoneration is achieved, it is just a big circus. Under the circumstances, the ‘Thugs’ can make a comeback despite their evident loot and plunder. Massive corruption has taken place in the last forty years which the system has failed to check.

​The current Parliamentary System has become hostage to the corrupt; the ball is in their court. Corruption has to be contained as it is no longer affordable. All individuals accused of corruption have to come clean to remain in the political arena. Stalling the legal process due to loopholes cannot save them, they must come clean-or face extinction together with the non-performing system. The debate for the Presidential System should be taken as a wake-up call by all political players if they desire to save the current dispensation. With amenable legislators, the house can very well pass a constitutional amendment allowing Presidential rule for a limited or extended period of time.

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It is the corruption that has to be contained; all leakages have to be plugged

Revenue shortages and budget deficits have to be corrected. Corruption now threatens the security apparatus of the country. Due to massive loot, plunder and uncontrolled expenses, Pakistan faces an economic emergency. The state is almost at the brink of collapse. While individual wealth has grown manifold, the institutional framework is bankrupt and nonfunctional.

The PM is right in highlighting the menace of corruption and so is his disgruntled MNA from KPK who said on the floor of the house that the names of the front row occupants should be put on ECL (Exit Control List) to save the federation. The parliament has lost its efficacy. Even now the country is being run in a quasi-Presidential mode as power is not being devolved as mandated by the constitution. The PM seldom comes to the legislature, where he is usually hounded. The situation in the provinces is the same; the Chief Minister’s (CM) operates in a similar manner.

After the 18th amendment in the constitution, while Islamabad has been cut to size the four CMs continue to defy the constitution. As the ruling party in Punjab, PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) has decided to hold direct elections for the Mayors or Nazims. PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) despite its democratic credentials is unwilling to let go large cities like Karachi and Hyderabad. With directly elected Mayor’s the CM’s will be cut to size as mandated by the constitution. The Jamaat-e-Islami dharna in Karachi is meaningful, the dye has been cast, and devolution is on the cards together with containment of corruption at all costs.

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The Jamaat will get its piece of the pie in the process

The options are limited. The seating arrangements have to change to save the parliament, front rows have to deal with. If the courts fail to contain the menace of corruption to cleanse the house, then ‘Zamir’ will come into play. The backbenchers will gladly vote for the Presidential System to save their own skin. As the leader of the house ZAB sought consensus in formulating the 1973 constitution, he approached Maulana Abul Ala Maudadi to seek his support.

This time the files will get the job done within the parliament as the courts have not been able to conclude the trials of the corrupt. Interesting times lay ahead, In the end, I wish and pray that Pakistan will come first as it did in 1973 when the house performed its duties to the best of its abilities but never after that. This ‘Rogue Democracy has ruined the country, this ‘Political Circus’ of the corrupt frontbenchers in the parliament has to end.



The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be reached at The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space