Should Pakistan opt for presidential form of government? Essay
Our democracy is based on the British model, namely parliamentary system of the Westminster type. General elections are held; the leader of the party that secures a majority of seats in National assembly is named leader of the House and Prime Minster. He appoints other ministers. If no party secures an absolute majority, then a group of parties combine to form a majority and they set up a coalition government. In the provinces, the leader of the majority party becomes Chief Minister and he appoints other ministers. The ministry holds office so long as it commands a majority in the house. It may be defeated in a vote of no-confidence and then it must quit.
This system works best in England, where there are only two parties-the ruling party and the opposition-and defections are unknown. In Pakistan, in any fluid situation, defection becomes the rule and M.N.A. ‘s and M.P.A. ‘s cross the floor and change over to the new party which promises them ministership or other gain. Once an M.P.A. changed sides many times in a fortnight. A majority party can become a minority over-night by the exodus of some members. There is no stability, no long term planning for the good of the country; only short-term maneuvering to keep one’s chair, while all the time the opposition is trying to dislodge the ministry by winning dissidents and then to take its place. In this musical chair race of politics, all the time, attention and energy of the leaders are spent on ministry-making and ministry-breaking, while public good takes a back seat. These daily desertions and defections of people’s elected representatives have made our democracy the despair of the people and a laughing stock of the world. So it is often suggested that we should go in for the presidential form of government as in the U.S.A. There the President is a constitution-made dictator for 4 years; he has complete security of tenure. In every leap year, presidential election must be held, war or peace. He has vast powers to rule and advance the country. He selects his ministers not only out of elected members but from outside.
Some of our political leaders have advocated the presidential system for the following reasons.
(1) The President can choose his cabinet of best talents. He need not restrict his choice to M.N.A. ‘s only. (In the provinces, an elected Governor could do the same).
At present, every M.N.A. and M.P.A. dreams of becoming a minister and so spend lakhs of rupees on his election in the hope of making many more lakhs as a minister. If this lure of ministership is gone,not many would spend such huge sums and thus political corruption will be lessened. Also at a present, vote-catchers are appointed ministers, though they may be .illiterate in the subject of their portfolio. An irrigation and power minister may be very ignorant of engineering complexities. It is said that every democracy needs an aristocracy of talent. Outstanding specialists do not participate in the rough and tumble of elections, the dust and noise of party politics. The presidential form can utilities the services of its best brains for solving the country’s problems.
(2) The cabinet ministers, not being elected, do not have to play to the gallery to get the votes of the ignorant masses, by appeal to caste, subcaste,community;Jats versus non-Jats, Mohajir versus non-Mohajir and other false slogans. They need not strike populist postures to please their constituencies, such as raising such slogans as socialism, nationalization, secularism, authoritarianism and so forth. They are not prohibited from doing the right thing for the country, for fear of losing public favour or losing votes at the next election.
(3) Ministers do the work of governance and administration, instead of wasting all their time in politicking to win friends and influence people, to keep their flock intact and to lure to their sides disgruntled members of other parties.
(4) It puts an end to defections and desertions, the chief malady of our democratic working. There is no inducement to turn coat. After all, it is the spate of defections that has induced our people to look for other ways of running our democratic system.
(5) Also the President, being sure of job security for his full term, need not woo the changing favours of the M.N.A. ‘s nor give them undeserved posts, positions or other benefits, much to the detriment of the nation and at great expense to exchequer.
This could put a brake on the politics of money, of buying M.N.A’s (price may be as high as. Rs. one to two crores) to create a majority and other serious evils. The leader of opposition said that in general elections, the ruling party has spent Rs. 60 crores on them. This was all black money that came from big business houses. They in turn made a profit of Rs. 200 crores by governmental favours, evidently all at the expense of the poor masses, The politicians gained, the businessmen gained but the people lost and suffered grievously. Under that system, there will be no party whip, no order to the party men to support the minister, even when their conscience says he is in the wrong, In the sixties, France’s fourth republic was in a bad way because of constant changes and shufflings of ministries of multi-party coalition. The average life of a government was 3 months. De Gaulle brought a stability by switching over to presidency.
But presidential democracy is not an unmixed blessing; nothing in world is. We have four crore voters. A country-wide election of the President, • combined with the election of Governors of all the four provinces would cost hundreds of crores of rupees. Only a very rich party may be backed by foreign money-could file a candidate for President ship. In America, voters elect an electoral college of 154 members and since their party labels are in public knowledge, the election of the President by this electoral college is a mere formality and a foregone conclusion. In Pakistan, there would be a race of money to buy some of these members. So here the election of President will have to be direct. And what if a clever politician by strength of his or her money power and slogan-raising is elected President? Such a President could oppress the people and feather his own nest for a full term, without any let or hindrance. One’ political leader said, “It is not the Constitution which has failed the people, but it is our chosen representatives who have failed the Constitution”. Any system, presidential or parliamentary, ca~ work successfully if people working it are noble, honest and public-spirited. Again any system, presidential or parliamentary, will fail miserably, if people working it are unprincipled, opportunist and interested in only gain for themselves and their families.