EDITORIAL: For some time there have been trial balloons about a possible change in the country’s political system from a parliamentary form of government to a presidential form of government. The ruling PTI is said to have launched a secret campaign to this end with the support of its allied parties.
Prime Minister Imran Khan unhappy with the constraints on the implementation of his plans and policies under the current system wants to pursue ideas to facilitate the decision-making process for himself. This requires major constitutional changes with a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament. Therefore, he reportedly instructed some of his party leaders to engage with the PPP.
The party has opposed any such suggestion in the past and is likely to remain so in view of the fact that the lasting legacy of its founding leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, which no one has been able to dispute for practical purposes, is the Consensus Constitution of 1973 which provides for a parliamentary form of government.
Indeed, there are merits in both systems. The presidential form of government thrives in many democracies. In this country too, it has already been attempted, but each time with disastrous consequences.
Four years after seizing power in a coup, the first military leader, General Ayub Khan, introduced the 1962 constitution that adopted a presidential form of government to become executive president, and sowed the seeds of a growing sense of alienation in the eastern wing of the country, which eventually led to the secession of East Pakistan under his successor, President General Yahya Khan. For a brief period, the country embarked on a path of socio-economic progress and political stability when the popularly elected leader of the PPP, Bhutto, took office as Prime Minister. By ousting him, another general, Ziaul Haq, asserted himself in power as president.
He not only embroiled the country in the US proxy war in Afghanistan for which the country paid a heavy price in the form of gun and heroin culture and the radicalization of many young people, but also instituted several retrograde measures with lasting ramifications for that state and society. .
In 1999, another general, Pervez Musharraf, again overthrew a democratically elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and installed himself as president. As well as involving the country in another external conflict, it sparked a protracted insurgency in Balochistan and also created widespread political unrest. This disreputable part of the history of this country, however, has nothing to do with the advantages or lack of advantages in this form of government since all the aforementioned presidents have decided to wield gun power at fire rather than the mandate of the people.
But, it should be noted that when the representatives of the people had the chance to draw up the constitution, as in 1956 and 1973, they preferred the parliamentary system to the presidential form of government. They saw wisdom in it because despite its din and bustle, the former offers advantages over the latter system of democratic governance since the Prime Minister is permanently accountable to the representatives of the public in Parliament.
The PTI would also be well advised to overcome its desire to escape the pressures it believes restrict its freedom to do what it deems necessary (in any event, it’s a losing proposition) and let the system current flourish.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022