A Case For The Presidential System In Pakistan

Rooted in British colonial legacy, the parliamentary system of government has continued to fail. Given Pakistan’s political realities, the presidential system might deliver better results

A Case For The Presidential System In Pakistan
Pakistan adopted the parliamentary system of government primarily because prior to the coming into force of Indian Independence Act, 1947, the sub-continent had a system based on Westminster parliamentary democracy. The colonised people of sub-continent got themselves virtually enslaved to the ostensibly dazzling parliamentary form of government without comprehending its consonance with their values, needs and heterogeneity as distinguished from homogenous society of the United Kingdom. The parliamentary form of government hinges upon the conventions and traditions of the British constitutional law.

Every government system aims to develop a welfare state by alleviating poverty, creating employment opportunities and guaranteeing fundamental rights, etc. The parliamentary system has been tested time and again, but in vain.

A great many reasons are attributable to its failures. First, voters in various constituencies are kept illiterate so that they may not acquire critical thinking to say good-bye to status quo forces. Second, criminalisation of politics through the use of enforcers to protect vested interests. Third, victimisation of political opponents by initiating anti-corruption cases, etc. Fourth, unnecessary focus on local issues over matters of national importance. Fifth, a lack of leadership in political parties, which ultimately gives rise to crises of leadership at the national level. And last, the evil of defections and desertions. The list, however, is not exhaustive.
In the parliamentary system, there is no separation of powers between legislature and government. The political executive manipulates legislations and laws are inevitably made by the government rather than the parliament

In the parliamentary system, there is no separation of powers between legislature and government. The political executive, chosen from the legislators, holds the real executive power, and hence manipulates legislations. Therefore, laws are inevitably made by the government rather than the parliament. This paradoxically transforms the democracy into an elected dictatorship.

There is often a lack of cohesion between party members, especially the ones forming government, in the parliamentary system. Unity, if any, is always based upon compromises and conciliations for vested interests, with threats of defections looming. With the balance of power in politics being fragile, a smallest fraction of desertion can destabilise a delicate system like ours.

A significant demerit of the parliamentary system is the patronisation of blue-eyed bureaucrats, who can operationalise unconstitutional orders of the government in power.

The past 74 years bear testament to failures of government systems in Pakistan, including the dictatorial regime of Ayub Khan wherein a presidential system did exist but was totally flawed, because it was not tailored on a democratic model laced with guarantee of fundamental rights.
In the presidential system, the unelected ministers aren’t motivated by short-term populist measures and concentrate on long-term national goals

Under the presidential system, the president is the de jure as well as de facto head of the country’s administration. The president enjoys complete discretion in selecting those people as ministers who possess potential to discharge duties of their respective portfolios effectively and ably. The selection pool is vast and not confined to parliamentarians. The political executive, thus chosen, represents cross-sections of society.

The presidential system has its own advantages. First, and foremost, unelected ministers are neither motivated by short-term populist measures, nor bound by party compromises, and concentrate on chalking out policies for long-term national goals. Second, ministers completely devote their energies to the country’s development rather than wasting their time in endless politics and conciliations.

Another important advantage of the presidential system is that party discipline is maintained, with lessor chances of desertions. They thus pay full attention to the business of legislation along with focusing on strengthening the constitutional framework and rule of law.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the writer's own and do not reflect Friday Times/Naya Daur's editorial policy.