The root cause of Pakistan’s problems is ‘feudocracy’, a defective system of governance dominated by feudal landlords that fosters corruption. This has resulted in the negligence of Article 62 of our constitution which stipulates that only persons who are of good character, sagacious, honest and ‘ameen’ can qualify as members of our National Assembly.
The ECP has been given the responsibility of screening candidates so that these requirements of Article 62 are met. However, our political parties have betrayed the constitution by hijacking the ECP; there are five members, four of which are appointed by the two major political parties. Since our constitution does not provide the mechanism of appointment of the ECP members, these ‘partisan’ appointments represent a huge subversion of the spirit of our constitution in which the neutrality of the election process is an important cornerstone.
This has resulted in the failure of democracy in Pakistan since a large number of people with forged degrees were elected to the National Assembly, so much so that even the federal minister of education under the previous government had forged his academic degrees. He switched camps and is now seen defending the PML-N on television channels. Later the degree requirement was abolished so that the forging of degrees was no longer necessary.
The ECP does not carry out a proper investigation of the applicants regarding the provisions of Article 62; its members protect the shady characters who want to become members of the National Assembly. This is a blatant subversion of our constitution. I, as a citizen of Pakistan, demand from the Supreme Court of Pakistan my basic right to be governed by a government that has been elected after fair and free elections as provided in our constitution.
Will the Supreme Court of Pakistan protect my rights guaranteed to me under the constitution and ensure that the members of the Election Commission are nominated by a high-level judicial council and not by political parties so that the constitution of Pakistan is protected?
The result of this ‘pseudo-democracy’ is that there has been mass loot and plunder in Pakistan over the last several decades. Other countries in Asia, including Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, India and now Sri Lanka, have marched forward. Even Bangladesh, which was economically lagging behind Pakistan, has progressed rapidly. The Supreme Court of Pakistan is also guilty of watching helplessly as Pakistan has been looted and plundered instead of taking suo motu action. No wonder we have had several martial law regimes as our army had to intervene repeatedly to prevent the complete economic collapse of the country.
A paralysed justice system is ideal for the corrupt in power as it ensures that they will continue to get away scot-free. That is why military courts had to be established, which in essence is an official admission of the failure of our justice system.
The parliamentary system of democracy does not appear to be suited to Pakistan. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah in a handwritten note dated July 10, 1947 had stated: “Dangers of Parliamentary Form of Government: 1) Parliamentary form of government – it has worked satisfactorily so far in England nowhere else; 2) Presidential form of government (more suited to Pakistan)”. Our Quaid knew well that the feudal mindset that dominated West Pakistan would stifle democracy and protect vested interests. Time has proved him right. Had he lived longer he would probably have changed our constitution to a presidential system.
I advocate a presidential system of democracy that can then allow technocracy to prevail. The president should be elected directly by a general vote and he/she is then the chief executive. The president should appoint the top visionary technocrats in the country as ministers, with each ministry backed by a powerful think tank. A proportionate representation system should be introduced so that the representatives in the legislatures are proportional to the votes cast. The role of parliament should be confined to law-making and oversight of national affairs; parliamentarians should not be eligible to be appointed as ministers. This will reduce chances of corruption by ministers.
The credentials of presidential candidates, ministers, governors and other important government officials must be vetted by a ‘Committee of Elders’ appointed by the Supreme Court from among respected members of the community. Eighty percent of the members of parliament must have a first class Masters degree so that they can properly discharge their primary function of law-making. The federal and provincial ministers as well as secretaries and other key government officials and heads of public-sector organisations must all be highly qualified, possessing terminal degrees in the discipline corresponding to their ministry/subject.
There must be judicial and electoral reforms so that all cases filed are dispensed with within four months. It would be advisable to extend the jurisdiction of the military courts to cases of mega corruption, and capital punishment should be introduced. The powers of plea bargaining with NAB should be taken away and exemplary punishments made mandatory.
The present system allows the crooked ministers and heads of organisations to steal billions, and if caught, NAB then allows them to get away scot-free after plea bargaining and surrendering only a fraction of what they had stolen. The armed forces represent the only disciplined organisation in the country and we should give them a formal role in the new system of governance as has been done successfully in Turkey. This will prevent Martial laws being imposed to stop the plunder of national wealth by corrupt political parties.
What Pakistan needs is a modification of our constitution to a presidential system of technocracy and not the ‘feudocracy’ that we have today. It should ensure that all ministers, secretaries and key officials that head different organisations are top experts in their respective fields. The extension of the jurisdiction of military courts to corruption and introduction of capital punishment to the guilty will put Pakistan back on the road to progress.
The writer is a former federal minister, former founding chairman of the HEC and presently president of the Network of Academies ofScience of Islamic Countries.
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