Pakistan seems to be stuck in its own version of a political Groundhog Day – except ours occurs every few years and runs for weeks at least. Right on cue, there is a roaring campaign in...
Pakistan seems to be stuck in its own version of a political Groundhog Day – except ours occurs every few years and runs for weeks at least. Right on cue, there is a roaring campaign in support of introducing the presidential system in Pakistan – bizarrely one of the most debated political questions in the country and that too by the same names and faces and ranks. Then there is a rumour factory working in full speed to circulate misinformation and create doubts about the future of the parliamentary system in the county, including a 'state of emergency' that may curtail the current parliamentary tenure and pave the way for a presidential system. Though the imposition of a state of emergency is not an unheard of phenomenon in Pakistan, after the inclusion of the 18th Amendment in the country’s constitution it has become well-nigh impossible for any executive power to do so in the arbitrary fashion our rumour-creators seems to wish existed.
Mainstream and social media are rife with this debate, which seems to wish to convince the people of the advantages a presidential system would afford to them. Needless to say, this completely unnecessary agenda is also harmful for the health of democracy in the country. It is not like Pakistan is a stranger to the presidential form of government, which it has tried – in vain – with several presidents – both elected and imposed – having left their indelible marks on the memory of this nation. Even if there was no direct presidential system, civilian and military heads of state at numerous times acted as all-powerful potentates who could dismiss elected governments at their ‘discretion’, dissolve assemblies at will, and abrogate constitutions at whim. With this latest campaign it is becoming clear that there are vested interests behind this confusion – and they are certainly not doing any favour to democracy or to the political dimensions of this country. The ruling party ministers and even the prime minister have on different occasions in the past voiced their concerns and displeasure about the parliamentary ‘obstacles’ that are supposedly hampering the progress the PTI wants to make.
We have seen such debates raise their heads over the years, mostly serving as a great distraction for the people – especially opinion-makers. The fact is that Pakistan is facing very real challenges. The ruling party’s slow progress on various fronts and outright failures on several more have left the citizens of this country bewildered. Some social media 'analysts' have gone so far to claim that a proclamation of emergency would allow the abolition of the current dispensation and assumption of power by a president who would then establish an ‘Islamic’ form of government. The rumour culture that is prevailing in the country is entirely based on gossip and specific narrative-setting machinery. It would be good to see all political parties denouncing such campaigns. The members of the joint opposition have already submitted a resolution to the National Assembly Secretariat, expressing the resolve to uphold and strengthen the federal parliamentary system in the country. For now, the 1973 constitution must reign supreme, as all attempts to subvert our constitutions in the past have mutilated the political landscape in the country. Next year the constitution will be 50 years old, and the nation must celebrate it to protect the sanctity of this document and thwart all attempts to further damage it.