ISLAMABAD: The whispering campaign for introducing the presidential form of government in the country has finally reached the Supreme Court through a petition that requires Prime Minister Imran Khan to hold a nation-wide referendum and pave the way for introducing the presidential system to replace the existing parliamentary one.

The referendum should be held by the prime minister only after seeking due approval from a joint sitting of the parliament, suggested the petition, which was moved by one Tahir Aziz Khan who heads a less-known and recently formed, Hum Awam Pakistan party, as chairman, by invoking Article 184(3) of the Constitution that deals with the apex court’s authority to enforce fundamental rights of the citizens.

The petition claims that the fundamental rights of the people provided under Chapter 1 of Part II of the Constitution were being infringed upon by the failure of the present parliamentary form of the government to deliver for their welfare and wellbeing and progress in different fields of life.

It is, therefore, in the interest of justice that the people be given a fair chance to choose presidential form of government if they want so, the petition pleads.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

The poor condition of masses of Pakistan directly reflects upon the system of the government in Pakistan since the parliamentary system has utterly failed, it says, adding as of March 2020 the public debt of Pakistan was estimated to be about Rs42.8 trillion or $256 billion.

After citing dismal figures of the country’s huge financial burden in terms of external debt and liabilities towards the International Monetary Fund (IMF), besides HDI (Human Development Index) and GDP, it criticises its parliamentary system for shifting political loyalties of the parliamentarians who “blackmail and pressurise the government to promote their own personal interests”. It is for this reason that often a healthy opposition and a strong government cannot emerge to take care of the welfare and wellbeing of the people, it argues.

The petition also deplores “a little legislation” in the assemblies, frequent shortage of quorum in the legislatures and a compromised role of the opposition.

Moreover, it states there is no system of separation of powers between the executive and the legislature, terming it the principal cause of politicisation of the administration, non-professionalism, nepotism and corruption.

It also regrets what it calls lack of merit in postings on sensitive positions saying such appointments are often made to win over the members of the opposition and allies of the government.

While the executive head and his ministers are not always competent, since the selection of the cabinet members has to be made from members of the parliament, the National Assembly or the Senate, competent people are not often available to improve the quality of governance, the petition says.

It advocates the presidential system saying it best suits the country because in exercising his powers, the president requires no help from the parliament to implement his agenda. Thus the presidential form of democracy puts the decision- making process on a fast track, it says.

The petition also cited examples of the countries which have made a lot of progress by switching over to the presidential form. In this connection it cites Turkey’s example where a constitutional referendum was held on April 16, 2017 on whether the office of the prime minister would be abolished and the existing parliamentary form be replaced with an executive presidency.

Likewise, it quotes France as a model, where a popular referendum was held on Sept 28, 1958 which approved the constitution of the Fifth Republic, replacing the French Parliamentary Republic with a presidential form of government.

It also refers to Iran having a “successful presidential system” since 1979. The country, it says, made a lot of progress despite sanctions by the United States and the United Nations and is “far ahead of Pakistan financially and politically”. Indonesia, Russia, and China are all now developed countries because they have adopted a presidential form of government, it argues. It is apparent from the media as well as the social media that an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis was fed up with the parliamentary form of government and want to adopt a presidential one, the petition claims.