Wonders never cease

January 28, 2022

Wonders never cease – and now that they’ve become ceaseless, we are left breathless. There are more wonders per day now than we can get used to. The next will be that we will stop seeing...

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Wonders never cease – and now that they’ve become ceaseless, we are left breathless. There are more wonders per day now than we can get used to. The next will be that we will stop seeing wonders as wonders but as everyday events.

It seems as if it is open season on prime ministers, like there is an open season on ducks. But, rarely have we seen ducks flying into the barrel of the gun. Now it seems that not only is it open season on heads of governments but that prime ministers have been given special passes to fly into guns. They are committing one suicidal stupidity after another. People will get so used to it, and so used to the holier-than-thou attitude of the opponents of these heads of governments, that it will be taken as a norm and these things will keep happening as if it makes no difference. But I suppose this is how things change and civilisations move on.

Times were when it would have been unacceptable for a prime minister to be living with a woman out of wedlock and producing child after child. Today it is the normal thing in Britain. And, frankly, nobody cares but what they do care about is their prime minister doing a good job and if they break certain rules along the way it doesn’t matter. What they are fed up with is the holy hypocrisy of the powerful who claim to believe in one thing and yet do another. In Pakistan, we are adept at changing difficult narratives. But the talk about changing the system has become legion. ‘It’s all the fault of the system’ is becoming a louder cry.

Now, someone has thrown in the red herring of changing to a presidential system to change the narrative. Those wedded to the current parliamentary system based on a colonial mindset and the age-old power structures based on feudalism, and later also on trade unionism, are resisting tooth and nail – claiming that those in favour of a presidential system are in favour of dictatorship. We have tried the presidential system many times without success. This too is the height of hypocrisy, because those many times were always during martial law. So, they should not be called presidential, but dictatorial systems.

The presidential system has as many, if not more, checks and balances as the parliamentary system. But these people will always support a system that strengthens the privileges of the already privileged and makes them even stronger. And the privileged are always the feudals, the industrialists, the service sector like banks and the institutions created to support them like the bureaucracy and even the judiciary and the army. Those same structures exist in both systems so what is the debate about? That we can’t throw the president out because there is no such thing as a vote of no-confidence.

They can always make the change by including no-confidence expressed by parliament in a presidential system to keep the chief executive permanently on the hop, unable to concentrate on his work. The presidential system allows the president to choose his team from outside parliament, while in our system he still can by appointing five special advisers of ministerial rank and endless special assistants.

I was one of the first to speak openly about the presidential system in October 1991 in this very newspaper – and got a lot of flak for it. Now, most people are changing to my point of view, but after two decades of contemplation I have come around to the point of view that both systems don’t have much of a chance of working because what matters is the people working it. So, what we really need is not a change of system but a change of the people. This does not make any sense on the face of it but people do change by acquiring better values, better principles, better norms.

One would have thought that the people would automatically have adopted Islamic norms because they hypocritically call themselves an Islamic state but, again, this is just an addition to our hypocrisy. We have an Islamic state where there is no room for Islamic norms to function. So, the answer is: go back to a clean drawing board and make your system out of Islamic norms which you will find are more modern than Western liberal democratic norms. You have to at least give it a try before you scream that Humayun Gauhar has gone mad. I laugh at those who say there is no democracy in Islam. Let these fools first tell us what democracy is. Why are Western human rights declarations based on Islamic principles?

So, to make such ignorant statements that there is no democracy in Islam is only to expose your own lack of knowledge and surfeit of ignorance. We should at least change the narrative from ignorance to knowledge. If we do, you may be surprised to find that a better system will fall automatically into your laps.

The writer is a veteran journalist, political analyst and author. He can be reached at:


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