Why did Jinnah advocate a Presidential Democracy?


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

Our Prime Minister needs to consider and act upon the vision of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnahwho had realized very early on that the Parliamentary system of democracy will fail in Pakistan. Our Quaid foresaw that the feudal strangleholdof corrupt and powerful landlords will result in the hijacking of the Parliament and the government to achiever their own evil designs. Jinnah had repeatedly warnedabout the evils of the feudal system in his various speeches. In one speech he stated, and I quote “I should like to give a warning to the landlords and capitalists who have flourished at our expense by a system which is so vicious, which is so wicked and which makes them so selfish that it is difficult to reason with them. The exploitation of the masses has gone into their blood. They have forgotten the lessons of Islam” Unquote.(Address, All India Muslim League Session, Delhi, 24 April 1943). He knew that the only way to address this evil force was through education, so that the masses will not be brow beaten by these forces, and will develop the courage to stand against them. This was essential for a genuine democracy to succeed.
Jinnah deliberated about the best system of democracy for Pakistan. After much thought he concluded that the Presidential system of democracy wasbest suited Pakistan. In a historical observation that many are unaware of ,he 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 nowhere else—and 2. Presidential form of government (more suited for Pakistan” Unquote. This note is available in File 42 of 1947 in the the Jinnah Papers in Islamabad and a copy of it was given President Ziaul to Mr. SharifuddinPirzada.
The notewas then reproduced in the book entitled The Jinnah Anthology of Oxford University Press, page 81, edited by Liaquat H. Merchant and SharifulMujahid(3rd edition published in 2010). In thechapter entitled “Constitutional Set-up of Pakistan as visualised by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah” by SharifuddinPirzadain this book he states: “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 opinion of Mohammed Ali Jinnah has been ignored by our past rulers as it was not in their interest to change the system of governance that relied on “electables” bringing them repeatedly into positions of authority.
It needs to be clarified that Jinnah was not advocating a dictatorship but a genuine democracy in which the President is elected by general free vote. Such a system exists in more than 50 countries including USA, France and will soon be introduced in Turkey. A major advantage of the Presidential system of democracy is that the freely elected President can select top technocrats who are experts in various disciplines(such as development economics, law, agriculture, science, engineering, information technology etc. ) and appoint them as Federal Ministers. These experts would not normally be interested in trying to become Ministers through the election process as they will have little chance to compete against the powerful landlords who spend crores to come into power by hook or by crook. They need to be enticed and persuaded by the freely elected President to join his team of Ministers and contribute to the process of socio-economic development at the cost of their professional careers.
In this era of specialization deep subject knowledge is essential for those in power, and only top technocrats are suited to properly comprehend the needs of the time and plan accordingly so that a strong knowledge economy can materialize. Each Ministry must be led by a top specialist Minister, who can ensure that the highest national priority is given to Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (ESTI). It is only through such a Cabinet of technocrats that Pakistan can focus on the task of focusing on the manufacture and export of high technology goods so that we could enhance our exports by a hundred fold. This is what countries such as Singapore, Korea, Malaysia and China did with the result exports of Singapore, a country with a population of 5.5 million, are now over $330 billion while our exports stagnate at US $ 24 billion. Over 87% of all high technology exports from the OIC countries come from Malaysia alone, about 6% are contributed from Indonesia while the rest of the 55 countries contribute only about 7% of the total. This single fact illustrates the reason behind the economic miracles of Singapore and Malaysia, a fact that is often missed out. This was achieved through having Cabinets composed largely of technocrats, under autocratic democracies. It is only through such a mechanism that we can plan to change the present system that relies on natural resources for development, and transition to a knowledge based economy through acquiring the ability to manufacture and export medium and high value added goods. For this to happen, scholars of international eminence must be “selected” (and not “elected”) by the freely elected President. This is possible onlywhen a Presidential form of government exists so that the President can select his team of Cabinet Ministers, not from the Parliament but from the best talent available in the country, as is donein France, USA and in many other countries.
Another important advantage of the Presidential system of democracy is that it ensures a far better separation of powers between the Legislative (Parliament), Executive (Government departments) and Judiciary. This is critically important for a genuine democracy to function.A major flaw in the present Parliamentary form of government is that the Prime Minister leads the political party in the Parliament which can formulate laws suitable for the political interests of that Party. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution that has damaged the country in so many ways is one example. So he can influence the Legislative arm through his involvement. The Prime Minister is also involved in the Executive arm of the governance system by appointing the heads of organisations such as NAB, FIA, SECP, State Bank etc. These are often cronies, as we saw over the last 10 years.Such an overlap of functions between these two pillars of governance, the Legislative and the Executive can cause huge damage, as has happened in Pakistan.
Pakistan must eliminate the evil of feudalism that has prevented ]the installation of a genuine democratic government. We must provide equitable and fair access and equal opportunities for all in respect of education, health services and national wealth. The answer to these problems lies in our creating additional provinces and bringing about some basic changes in our Constitution so that Pakistan could embark on the path of equitable socio-economic development.
—The author is the former Federal Minister of Science & Technology & Information Technology, Chairman of Higher Education Commission. Currently he is President of the Network of Academies of Science of OIC Countries (NASIC) and Co-Chairman of UN Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation for UNESCAP.

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