For a Different Democracy (Part 16)


Prof Atta-ur-Rahman,
FRS, N.I., H.I., S.I., T.I.

In my earlier articles I have advocated the need for installing a Presidential form of democracy and pointed out its several advantages. One advantage is that the freely elected President can select the best specialists in the country in various disciplines and appoint them as his Ministers. This is extremely important in this day and age where transitioning to a knowledge based economy has become extremely important so that countries could develop the ability to manufacture and export medium and high value added goods. Each Ministry must be led by an enlightened specialist Minister, who is aware of the latest developments in the field and who can quickly launch projects to ensure, along with other colleagues, that the very highest priority is given to Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (ESTI). This can only happen if persons of international eminence are “selected” (and not “elected”) by the President in a Presidential form of government where he has the powers to do so, as is being implemented in France, USA and in many other countries. The second important advantage in a Presidential system of democracy is that it ensures a much better separation of powers between the Legislative (Parliament), Executive (Government departments) and Judiciary, which is critically important for a genuine democracy to function.
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah realized during his life time that the Parliamentary system of democracy will not work in Pakistan because of the feudal stranglehold. He warned in many speeches about the evils of the feudal system and the need for Pakistan to invest in education in order to establish a genuine democracy. He also thought about the best system of democracy in Pakistan. He then wrote a note in his own handwriting, and I quote: “The Future Constitution of Pakistan” — “1. The Parliamentary form of government: it has worked satisfactorily in England and where else? —and 2. Presidential form of government (more suited for Pakistan” Unquote. This is available in File 42 of 1947 which was unsealed by President ZiaulHaque and one copy of it was given to Mr. Sharifuddin Pirzada. The original is available in the Jinnah Papers in Islamabad. It is reproduced in the book entitled The Jinnah Anthology of Oxford University Press, page 81, edited by Liaquat H. Merchant and Shariful Mujahid (3rd edition published in 2010). In his chapte entitled “Constitutional Set-up of Pakistan as Visualised by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah” in the book Sharifuddin Pirzada states and I quote: “The note was jotted down by Mr. Jinnah on or about 16th July 1947. The note clearly states that in the future constitution of Pakistan regarding form of government there would be Presidential form of government. It was not specified which Presidential form. However in the manner in which the government functioned from 15th August 1947 to 11 September 1948, it seems it was more on the pattern of the French system” Unquote.The uncanny sense that Mohammed Ali Jinnah had of the future course of events was proved right.
If one looks around the Asian countries, rapid development has only occurred in countries which were led by strong visionary autocratic leaders, be it Singapore, Korea, Malaysia or China. The autocratic systems present in these countries allowed the leaders to rapidly implement reforms which would not have been possible under normal parliamentary democratic systems. The spectacular advances made by China during the last 40 years are particularly impressive as never before in the history of mankind has a country of such a huge population evolved so quickly. While President Mao laid the foundations of modern China, the real accelerated modernisation occurred under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping after the death of President Mao in 1976. Deng realized that the single most important sector of China was that of agriculture. Reforms in this sector could quickly lead to poverty alleviation and provide the country with much needed funds that could then be used to develop other sectors. Deng introduced the “bottom up” approach to reforms by decollectivizing agriculture, and divided the lands of the “Peoples Communes” into private plots, thereby making individual household responsible. This resulted in a 25% increase in agricultural output and paved the way for carrying out further privatization in other economic sectors. Reforms introduced in industry included the introduction of a dual price system under which state owned enterprises sold their products at controlled prices up to their quota limits but at market prices for quantities produced above that quota. The state owned enterprises were allowed to be managed by private individuals or groups instead of by the government officials. Private businesses were legalized that led to a huge boost in industrial productivity. Special economic zones were created for foreign investment which led to many advanced countries opening up their high technology industries including those of automobiles, computers etc. These industries became the engines of rapid growth for China. Foreign investors benefited from the high productivity, low labor costs and good infrastructure. This dual track approach of China, involving both government planned enterprises as well as private sector investments have contributed to the remarkable GDP growth of China which has ranged between 9% and 11.5% between 1978 to 2015.China’s GDP has risen ten-fold since the beginning of Deng’s reforms. China has now changed gears and is now trying to develop as a world leader in science, technology and Innovation. I have been deeply involved in many projects in China which won me the highest national award for foreigners (“The Friendship Award”) in 2014. I happen to be the only scientist from the Muslim world to be elected as “Academician” (Foreign Member) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the most powerful scientific institution in China, and I am now involved in helping China to develop in the formulation of the overall Chinese National S&T Strategic Plan for the period 2021 to 2035.
China would not have achieved what it did under a British Parliamentary system that is toxic for underdeveloped countries as it fosters corruption and allows powerful corrupt leaders to be elected to the parliament, manipulated by foreign powers by incentives, and then ruin the country. They pile up billions of dollars of public money in foreign assets while the population at large suffers from malnutrition, disease and illiteracy. This is alas what has happened in Pakistan. About 200 of the “honourable” Members of the National and Provincial Assemblies had forged their degrees to become eligible to get elected into the assemblies. This was discovered by HEC when it carried out an investigation on orders of the Supreme Court. They should have been put in jail and banned from politics for life but the Supreme Court took no action at that time. It should now take suo moto action against them as many of them are still in our Assemblies and one of them even became our Federal Minister of Education under the last government!
The loot and plunder by corrupt politicians which forced the military to take temporary control has devastated Pakistan. We stand today at a precipice, drowning in debt and it is high time that the Supreme Court to take suo moto action so that an interim government could be installed that could implement our Quaid’s vision of a Presidential democracy in Pakistan.
—The author is former Federal Minister of Science & Technology, former Chairman Higher Education Commission and Chairman of UN Committee for Science, Technology and Innovation for UNESCAP