Pakistan – the country that is existing on the map of the world since Britishers agreed to depart from the sub-continent – has inherited what we call the parliamentary style of government. The parliamentary system that is in operation in Pakistan is also known as the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy.
Britishers brought with them so many legacies of theirs’ and parliamentary democracy was one of them. Though, this system is delivering efficiently in Pakistan but altogether unsuitable to the prevailing conditions in Pakistan.
An overview of the present government system in Pakistan
The present government system that’s operational in Pakistan is parliamentary in nature. Parliament is bicameral comprising two houses; an upper house called Senate, and a lower house called as National Assembly.
Out of three branches of civil administration, the executive is involved in decision-making procedures whereas the legislature is responsible for lawmaking and policymaking.
Judiciary, however, is constitutionally independent in the dispensation of justice. Judiciary comprises an apex court, several high courts as well as lower courts, and special courts.
Is the parliamentary system failing in Pakistan?
The answer is a big no because it is us who are failing the parliamentary system ourselves. There are many countries in the world that are reaping the fruits of the parliamentary system. Denmark, Norway, Japan, Malaysia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom are a few of them. Moreover, the parliamentary form of government is the dominant form of government across Europe.
As far as the situation of Pakistan is concerned, the country has not been able to realize democratic spirit in full because of inefficiencies on economic and governance fronts, corruption and mishandling of resources, and poor to no sense of political accountability.
There prevails a dynastic element within the country’s democracy that make it look like a tyranny. The progeny of the previous ruling elite is all dominant over the political landscape, and there seems little chance for the influx of fresh minds. Serious lapses on the policy front are also somehow responsible for the procrastinated state of affairs.
Additionally, constitutional lacunas are also dilly-dallying the delivery of public service in the country. Bleak devolution of power to local level administration is yet another factor responsible for the sorry state of affairs.
Why the Presidential System?
Aspirations are high across many quarters in the country for the presidential form of government. Some people misappropriate it with the one-man rule but that is not the case in reality. A presidential system is also a democratic system with the president being the executive authority.
USA, Singapore, and China are having a presidential system in place beside many other countries of the world. In a presidential system, the president is free to choose his cabinet from amongst the experts, technocrats, and specialists according to the area of work.
Contrary to that in Pakistan, the premier is bound to select the cabinet from amongst the parliamentarians. This creates a conflict of interest because the parliamentarians who are supposedly entitled to perform the legislation work become involved in finances as well as policy implementation.
In the presidential system, people are authorized to select their president directly unlike that of the parliamentary system where the politically elected elite choose a person to govern the country. The presidential system inducts a sort of direct democracy and enables the masses to be more aware politically.
Currently, the federating units are in a situation of competition over the distribution of resources. A rift over water distribution between Sindh and Punjab is a classical example. The presidential system, if implemented, is most likely to subside all these tussles because it ensures a strong center that is more empowered in decision-making.
In Pakistan, the rigging allegations are constantly hurled in the air even after the announcement of election results. The presidential system, however, is thought to overrun these rifts as well. Last but not least are the institutional and electoral checks that exist in the presidential system. This sort of check and balance system keeps the governments on their toes.
Instead of being predictive about the presidential or parliamentary system, there is a dire need to recommend a third path to bring about the solution. That third path is discursive institutionalism in which think tanks and policymakers carry out a peaceful dialogue process to bring the matter to conclusion.
In short, comprehensive national-level discussions must be held on the issue and parliament remains a perfect forum to accomplish any such task.