In an interview to TheNation, Chaudhry Jafar Iqbal, who is a member of the National Assembly, said that the parliamentary system has failed to deliver and the presidential system can solve all problems.
He is preparing a draft of the new system which will be presented to the party leadership, leaving it to them whether to incorporate it in the party’s manifesto for the next polls. He may also launch a campaign for the change of system.
Hypothetically, if the new system is adopted the president and governors will be elected directly by the people.
The leader from Rahim Yar Khan has been talking about the presidential system for the past couple of days, but, unfortunately, no party has taken any notice of his utterances. If the idea he has floated is amazing, more amazing is the silence of the PML-N, which is all for the parliamentary system.
Should it be assumed that the former deputy speaker of the National Assembly has the backing of his party on the subject? Logically, the silence of all PML-N leaders can be interpreted as their consent. If the party had any reservations about the ill-timed idea, somebody must have dismissed it as personal opinion of Mr Jafar Iqbal. Hopefully, the party will explain its position as soon as possible.
The call for a new political system will open a new Pandora’s box which the country cannot afford in the prevailing chaotic conditions. The system was tried during the Ayub Khan’s period, but ultimately abandoned. Mr Bhutto had also tried to give the same system through the 1973 Constitution, but had changed his mind when his colleagues opposed the idea. It was because of their aversion that the framers were told to base the 1973 Constitution on parliamentary system.
The PML-N leaders have consistently been claiming that if their government had not been dismissed in 1993 and 1999 the country would have been rubbing shoulders with the developed states. They never said that the pace of development would have been faster in the presence of presidential system.
This means if the national economy is going down or people’s problems have not been solved it is not because of the parliamentary system. Rather it is because the elected representatives have no time for their electors.
Their first and foremost priority is to make maximum money in the shortest possible time. And no political system will bring magic solutions to the country’s problems if the leaders did not change their attitudes.
What Mr Jafar Iqbal is proposing is not very easy to implement. It has very serious implications for the country. The presidential system cannot be introduced just by bringing about some amendments to the 1973 Constitution. In fact, this Constitution doesn’t allow any amendment which is against its basic structure, and the parliamentary system is an important ingredient thereof. Presidential system can be introduced by bringing in a new Constitution – framing of which will not be possible for any party or parties, no matter how popular. First of all a constituent assembly should be elected before thinking of a new constitution. And once such a duly-mandated assembly is in place, the separatist elements and nationalists will make it impossible for any party to reach some consensus on the political system. And in the absence of a constitution the very unity of the country will face a serious threat.
In such a situation, there is no need for reopening the settled issues.
What is needed is an improvement in the existing system. The powers of the president and the prime minister should be reviewed in a way that the president is not just a showpiece sitting in the Presidency. He should monitor the performance of a government and have power to take punitive action against it if it is not coming up to people’s expectations.
There is also need for some checks on the use of powers by the prime minister.
For example, the prime minister should not have the power to appoint any of his cronies as ambassadors, advisers. The parliament should be given a role in the selection of holders of these offices. All discretionary powers of all top state functionaries should be done away with.
There should be a system to monitor the performance of all elected representatives and use of state funds by them. The role of the legislators should be confined to lawmaking, leaving the development works to local governments. The elected representatives should have no role in the postings and transfers of officials.
The political parties should not try to politicise bureaucracy. It’s unfair for a party to sideline the officials it thinks are sympathetic to some other party.
Such a policy will certainly bring much positive results than any other move like the change of system.