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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Petition filed in SC seeking referendum for presidential form of government

The petition states that it is apparent from the print, electronic and social media that an overwhelming majority of the people are fed up with the parliamentary form of government and want to adopt the presidential form of government.

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A constitutional petition has been filed in the Supreme Court, for the second time, seeking the SC to direct the Prime Minister to hold a referendum for the establishment of presidential form of government in Pakistan.

The petition was filed by Tahir Aziz Khan, the chairman of a political party called the Hum Awam Pakistan, under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution. One of the main objectives of the Hum Awam Pakistan is to establish presidential form of government in the country.

What the petitioner seeks? 

The petitioner seeks direction from the apex court to the Prime Minister of Pakistan to hold a referendum, as provided under the Clause 6 of the Article 48 of the Constitution, to determine whether the people of Pakistan for their welfare and wellbeing want Presidential form of government or not.

The petition states that it is apparent from the print, electronic and social media that an overwhelming majority of the people are fed up with the parliamentary form of government and want to adopt the presidential form of government.

“Many of (parliamentary) problems are automatically removed in the presidential system. The presidential form of government is suitable for Pakistan because in exercising his powers, the president requires no help from the parliament to implement his agenda. The presidential form of democracy puts the decision-making process on a fast track.” States the petition.

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SC Petition: Growing population a problem for Pak economy

It is stated that currently Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world with an estimated population of 212 million people. According to the United Nations’ observations, this population is estimated to reach 403 million by 2050, the petition stated.

Pakistan has also one of the world’s largest youth population, as 64% of the Pakistanis are now under the age of 30. Pakistan is ranked as 122nd out of 190 countries in the world in the opinion of World Health Organisation’s performance report in terms of quality and accessibility of health care, it adds.

The growing trend in population suggests that a heavy strain will be put on the already limited resources of Pakistan. The lack of resources would then put millions of Pakistanis out of jobs – leading to the further destabilisation of the economy.

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Fundamental rights of citizens being curtailed?

The SC petition further claims that the fundamental rights of the people provided under Chapter 1 of Part II of the Constitution were being infringed upon by the failure of the present parliamentary form of the government to deliver for their welfare and wellbeing and progress in different fields of life.

It is, therefore, in the interest of justice that the people be given a fair chance to choose presidential form of government if they want so, the petition pleads.

The petition also says that as of March 2020 the public debt of Pakistan was estimated to be about Rs42.8 trillion or $256 billion. It cited scary figures of the huge financial burden on Pakistan and its liabilities towards the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Besides this, the HDI (Human Development Index) and GDP figures are also staggering.

The petition criticises Pakistan’s parliamentary system for the easily bought loyalties of parliamentarians and the promotion of their own interests. Further, poor condition of masses of Pakistan directly reflects upon the system of the government in Pakistan and it has been established that the parliamentary system of governance in the country has utterly failed.

“The people who are posted at sensitive posts are often not eligible for those posts and are appointed without being competent for those posts to win over the members of opposition and allies of that government,” the petition contends.

Can presidential system in Pakistan work?

Records show that a proposal for a presidential form of government for Pakistan was also under serious consideration in the past, and allegedly Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was also in favour of it. It was only for the sake of seeking unanimous approval of the constitution, that the opposition’s preference for a parliamentary system of government was agreed to.

Gen (retd) Ijaz Awan said in an interview, “We have to think whether a country like Pakistan which is at the verge of default wants to move forward with the burden of 1,500 MPAs and MNAs or it wants to go ahead with the presidential system. All the major powers have presidential form of government because this system makes the decision making process much easy.”

Air Vice Marshal (AVM) (retd) Shehzad Chaudhry believes it is a useless debate as the matter is settled in the Constitution. The Supreme Court of Pakistan termed the parliamentary form of government one of the basic pillars of the Constitution, which can only be altered through two-thirds majority. According to him, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in their personal capacity were fond of the presidential form of government.

Regardless, the current SC petition strongly advocates for a presidential system and states that there is little legislation in the assemblies and the meetings of legislatures often fail due to shortage of quorum. Therefore a presidential system would be the more efficient option for Pakistan.