Echoes of Presidential system once again | By Tariq Aqil


Echoes of Presidential system once again

WITH the rise of the political temperature in Islamabad, the raging fires of the rumour mill are also being stoked with new surprises every day.

The atmosphere in the federal capital is rife with rumours that the political system is about to take a summersault and the country will revert back to the Presidential form of Government once again. Political pundits, analysts and the usual experts are all silent about the manner or how all this will be achieved in the presence of the 1973 Constitution based on the Parliamentary system of Govt.

People are talking about an emergency being declared, the constitution suspended and the ruling elite then forming a new constitution based on the Presidential mode.

The Government of Imran Khan is now in its fourth year of ruling the country and desirous of a theocratic style of rule.

The newly-appointed chairman of the Rahmatul Aalmin Authority also believes in the rule of “Elite of the Elite” so it will not be a surprise if this initiative could be government-sponsored.

So far the Government has neither denied nor accepted any responsibility for this new wave of rumours in the country. This could also be a smokescreen for the government or more likely to divert public attention from the more serious and pressing issues facing the country to-day.

During the last seven decades of our existence, we have tried many experiments in governing.

The first decade was the rule by Parliamentary democracy as envisaged by our founding fathers and this was overturned in 1958 and the presidential system imposed.

There is no doubt that during the initial years of the Ayub era, the country did achieve some economic success and impressive growth.

After 1963 the system began to unravel Ayub’s image was shattered resulting in massive public demonstrations especially after the 1964 elections based on basic democracies and then the 1965 War.

Ayub was forced to leave and he handed over power to Yahya Khan who scrapped the 1962 Constitution and the country again reverted back to Parliamentary democracy. Yahya’s presidency was short lived and has the dubious distinction of losing half the country.

Bhutto took over after the disastrous 1971 War and his greatest contribution to this country is the 1973 Constitution based on Parliamentary democracy and it was adopted by consensus by all the political parties of Pakistan including the right wing religious parties.

General Zia took over after toppling the Bhutto Government. He did not abrogate the constitution but his rule was a presidential system.

He started the race to make Pakistan into a theocratic state to be ruled by the divinely ordained mullahs, formed a Majlis-i-Shura and started the campaign to Islamize the nation according to his version of Islam. After his death the 1973 Constitution was restored and we had a period of elected governments.

Until the next military takeover by General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan appears to be in a state of perpetual experimentation, military dictators, elected politicians and all types of leaders have taken the country for a ride again and again. Now once again the rulers are spinning a new story under the guise of bringing about change.

Right wing spin doctors are now promising the sun and the moon in the form of the Presidential system that is supposed to cure all evils in society and put us on the path to peace and progress. Enough is enough.

This country just cannot afford another experiment. We do not need the presidential system or a religious dictator ship or even a parliamentary theocracy. The proponents of Riasat-i-Madinah and their supporters are badly in need of a lesson in history.

The Presidential system has failed miserably in Pakistan. What we desperately need is secular democracy based on the parliamentary system; we need debate and strong opposition parties. We are in desperate need of reforms in all sectors, freedom of speech and thought.

Concentration of all power in the hands of a single individual may be nearer the pipedream of Riasat-i-Madinah but it will be a disaster for the country and the nation.

People of Pakistan are not in the need or in the mood to suffer another unwanted experiment of the presidential system because they have witnessed the disasters of this system in the past.

The parliamentary system with regular fair and free elections is the only system that gives the people some form of representation and a voice in the affairs of the state and legislation this is the right of the people and they deserve it.

—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.


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