ISLAMABAD: After a pause of a few months, yet another petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking immediate holding of a referendum to introduce presidential form of government in the country.
This time the petition was moved by Hafeez-ur-Rehman, a US-based Pakistani, through his counsel Khalid Abbas Khan, arguing that the people of Pakistan are not getting political justice and as a result they are also being denied economic and social justice.
Earlier, a number of petitions were filed in the Supreme Court on the same issue, but most of them were returned by the registrar office for not being entertainable.
In his petition, Mr Rehman argued that political justice had been denied to the people of Pakistan since 1947 because they were ruled by the political parties which got less than 51 per cent of popular vote.
For example, he said, ruling parties got 25.6pc, 32.7pc and 31.8pc of the popular vote in 2008, 2013 and 2018, respectively. This was against the basic principles of a democracy ruled by a majority, the petition contended, adding that in the presidential system, the president, governor and district mayor must take 51pc of the vote.
SC registrar office earlier returned most of such pleas for not being entertainable
“On the contrary, in the parliamentary system we elect legislators, but they also become executives. The people of Pakistan do not have the chance to elect their executives and legislators separately. Political justice is denied to the people of Pakistan. In the presidential system, people elect legislators and executives separately on the basis of their qualities,” the petition argued.
Moreover, it said, the parliamentary system encouraged polarisation in a society like Pakistan which was divided by language and religious sects. “This polarisation is proven by the results of parliamentary elections of 2008, 2013 and 2018. In the presidential system, any person from any province has the opportunity to gain the popular vote based on their own merits and this would diminish polarisation rooted in religious and linguistic sects,” the petition argued.
It said that about 25pc of special seats in parliament were rooted in legal corruption and unjust to the people of Pakistan, thus denying political justice to the people of Pakistan, whereas in the presidential system, there would be no special seats in parliament.
The petition said the indirect election of senators cheated the people by not including their direct votes. “Pakistan is a federation and roll-off senate is necessary to keep the federation strong. In the presidential system, there will be a direct election of senators.”
The petition emphasised that the current Senate had less power, resulting in a weaker federation, whereas in the presidential system, the Senate would be more powerful, keeping the federation strong.
“In the current parliamentary system, independently elected MNAs and MPAs sell their loyalty and convert a majority party into a minority party like in 2018 Punjab election results. There will not be any independent candidates without a political party in the presidential system. By-election in the parliamentary system wastes time and money at the expense of the people of Pakistan, whereas there will be no by-election in the presidential system,” it said.
The petitioner believed that the presidential system stood to bring more unity to a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic country like Pakistan. “This form of system has been established in many countries around the world, including the United States. This also allows any Pakistani citizen with charisma, better policies, and a good team to possibly become the president to make the federation stronger with a powerful Senate and equality between the provinces,” the petition argued.
“In the past 30 years, most of the countries that have been created have a presidential system,” the petition said, adding that the executive, legislative and judiciary were three key parallel components of the presidential system, which allowed check and balance and prevented abuse of power.
“The president, governors and district mayors can also more effectively provide good governance at federal, state and district levels; besides, the president enjoys free hand in picking and appointing qualified and capable cabinet members,” the petition said.
Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2020