Two separate petitions seeking a presidential system of government have reached the Supreme Court. The Petitions require SC to direct the Prime Minister to hold a referendum to establish a presidential form of government.
Tahir Aziz khan, chairman of the Hum Awam Pakistan Party, registered the first petition. He, by invoking Article 184(3) of the Constitution, demanded a transition to the presidential system. The concerned article deals with the Supreme Court’s right to enforce the fundamental rights of the public.
Another petition seeking the same objective-under Article 48(6)-was registered by Sadiq Ali, an Islamabad national. The petitioner further asked the court to telecast the case hearing on National TV for the benefit of the masses.
The petitions have highlighted the failures of the parliamentary system. The petitions also underscored discouraging figures of the country’s financial burdens, liabilities towards IMF, decreased Human Development Index, and GDP. Moreover, they claimed that the fundamental rights of people have been violated due to the incompetence of the parliamentary system.
The petitions as well criticized parliamentarians, over shifting loyalties and blackmailing the government for their motives.
Furthermore, the petitions spotlighted poorly done legislation in parliament, lack of quorum, and compromise on monitoring the role of opposition. Thus a healthy opposition and strong government are not there to take care of the welfare and well being of people.
In the presidential system, the president requires no help from the parliament to implement his agenda. So it can expedite the decision-making process. Therefore this system would be most suitable for Pakistan, the petitions claimed.
Supreme Court’s Possible Verdict
Senior Lawyers believe that the plea to enforce the presidential system might be shunned by SC. It has already declared that salient features of the constitution can not be amended, and the parliamentary system is one of them.
In 2015, while hearing the 21st Constitutional amendment case, SC had held that the parliamentary form of government as one of the salient features of the Constitution. It can not be amended through a constitutional amendment, the verdict noted.
The verdict noted that the parliament held limited power to amend the constitution. Article 238 and 239 grant the parliament to amend the Constitution, as long as its salient features are repealed, abrogated, or altered.
Furthermore, it noted that the apex court held the jurisdiction to interpret the Constitution to ascertain and identify its defining salient features.
Argumentation Over Presidential System:
Legal experts believe that this verdict would cause hindrance in implementing the presidential system. While some consider it a conflicting verdict.
It says democracy is a salient feature of the Constitutuion but also declares that the parlimentary system is also a salient feature of the Constitution. In a democracy, people have the option to choose what kind of system they want to adopt for governance, said a legal expert.
Gen (retd) Ijaz Awan said in an interview,
We have to think whether a country like Pakistan which is at the verge of default wants to move forward with the burden of 1,500 MPAs and MNAs or it wants to go ahead with the presidential system. All the major powers have presidential form of government because this system makes the decision making process much easy.
Additionally, Air Vice Marshal (retd) Shehzad Chaudhry called it a useless debate as the Constitution has already settled the matter. SC termed the parliamentary form of government as one of the basic pillars of the Constitution.
However, Barrister Ayesha Siddique Khan stated,
The solution is not to introduce a presidential system, but to strengthen the parlimentary democracy through local bodies, transparent electoral process and greater political participation.