SINCE its inception, Pakistan has tried parliamentary democracy, the presidential form of government, and even military regimes.
However, the country’s political system of government has witnessed a multitude of challenges, conflict and criticism.
Given the utter failure of the parliamentary form of government, could the presidential system be termed as the most appropriate government system for Pakistan?
But we need to see what is the major issue in Pakistan.Is it the inappropriate form of government or disproportionate population division?
Is it an unequal quota system or non-applicability of the merit system?To answer the question of whether a presidential or parliamentary form of government suits Pakistan this becomes incumbent to understand the demographic division within the country based on population.
According to the 2017 census, Punjab’s population is 110 million, Balochistan 12.34 million, Sindh 47.89 million, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 35.53 million and Gilgit Baltistan 1.249 million.
Punjab is the only exception with 50% of the overall state population.These numbers suggest that there is a disproportionate division of the population across the country.
With a dense population, Punjab automatically gets an edge over other provinces when it comes to the election results and bureaucratic mechanisms.
Automatically, Punjab receives the highest quota in the civil services and election mandate.Ultimately, Punjab put undue pressure on the formation of the government, financial division, policy-making and its implementation.
Looks like its interference in politics is justified based on its population demarcation.Pakistan is ranked 5th among the densely populated countries.
Out of 50 countries in the world, only 11 are bigger (population-wise) than Punjab; all the rest are smaller.
Let’s reflect on the top 50 countries with a population around 110 million or below that includes the Philippines 109 million, Egypt 100 million, Ethiopia 97 million, Vietnam 95 million, Iran 83 million, Turkey 83 million, Germany 82 million, France, 67 million, UK 66.5 million, Italy, 60.2 million, South Africa 59 million, Tanzania 57.6 million, South Korea 51.8 million, Afghanistan 38.93 million, Canada 38 million, Morocco 35.9 million, Saudi Arabia 34.2 million, Malaysia 32.8 million, Venezuela 32.2 million etc.
These states have less population as compared to Punjab province in Pakistan and they manage their government affairs smoothly.
But, Pakistan keeps on maintaining the four provincial statuses as it is written in the Bible to keep it that way.
This seems to be one of the major problems Pakistan faces today in terms of not only managing its government machinery but its bureaucratic system as well.
The quota system in the civil service of Pakistan is also a major setback to efficient performance.
Regional quotas were introduced for promoting equal representation of all provinces in the country.
The 1973 Constitution while introducing regional quotas fixed a 10-year period for it and the system was adopted for a short run.
Punjab holds 50% of the civil servants’ quota, Sindh Rural 11.4%, Sindh Urban 7.6%, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 11.5%, Balochistan 6%, Azad Jammu and Kashmir 2% and Gilgit Baltistan and FATA 4%. With a 50% quota Punjab holds the highest number of civil servants in the bureaucracy.Looks like Punjab not only controls the parliamentary system but also the bureaucracy.
Then what should be done to overcome the undue pressure of Punjab in running the state machinery in a proper manner?
The simple answer to the above question is to end provincialism in Pakistan ASAP!And how can we do that?
We need to have a presidential form of government and create more provinces based on an administrative basis.
That will help all 37 divisions of Pakistan to have inclusivity in the government decision-making process.
Their grievances will be resolved and justice will reach all levels. Issue of the quota system and problems associated with it will be overcome and provinces will be enabled to decide their civil services system.
That will help keep the bureaucracy under control and each province will have its due share in the civil services.
Ethnicity issues will be reduced and grassroots development will be accelerated.Corruption will be controlled and the issue of poverty will be addressed at bedrock levels.
At the federal level, in terms of the quota system, only 10% should be given to backward araes and 90% should be on merit.
Those provinces with weaker systems should be given additional resources by the federal government to meet the overall criteria of the government mechanism.
That way seats in the national and provincial assemblies will increase which will enable more participation and the satisfaction ratio will rise.
Ultimately, concerns regarding the 18th amendment will also be resolved.Today, many developed and developing states have presidential forms of government.
If we look at the numbers, 80 states have a full presidential form of government, 23 semi-presidential, 36 parliamentary, 9 monarchies, 13 semi-monarchies, 7 semi-constitutional monarchies and 18 commonwealth realms.
Are there any states that changed their form of government?I think yes.Turkey shifted to the presidential form of government and is doing a marvellous job.
Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, South Korea and Sri Lanka also shifted their form of government based on their requirements.
These are some of the examples while India exercises dictatorship under the umbrella of democracy.
The current provincial set-up indicates there is a disproportionate division in Pakistan that leads to immense problems for any government to resolve its governance problems unless the issue of population-wise division takes place in the country.
Today, we can see Turkey with 88 provinces under 83 million population which is 3/4th of the size of Punjab; Afghanistan with 34 provinces which is ¼ of Punjab population-wise.
Pakistan practises a parliamentary form of government but is seen only in the election process.
The major political parties talk about democracy but they never implemented democracy in their parties.
Charity begins at home but when our major political parties do not want to implement democracy in their party, in my opinion, they have no right to talk about democracy at the national, provincial and local levels.
Looking at the structure of major political parties in Pakistan, barring a few, give the assemblage of private limited companies.
Where the Board of Directors are family members.Political parties in Pakistan have become family businesses where powers are with the Board of Governors and those are family members.
That is the main reason behind parliamentary democratic failure in Pakistan.Then should Pakistan go for a presidential system?
In the current scenario, Pakistan requires robust changes in its government machinery and policymaking.
But unfortunately, the existing parliamentary system is not a viable solution at this stage.
Making changes in the Constitution is not a biblical concern but the need of the hour and essential for the state’s survival which is above all!
I think Pakistan will not be the first country to switch its form of government based on its needs.
—The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Government and Public Policy, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, National University of Sciences and Technology.