Merely eight months into its term, a few members of Imran Khan’s party, PTI, and some ruling establishment-related social media accounts have suddenly started a campaign for “Islamic Presidential System” in Pakistan. This is a curious turn of events for the supporters of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was feted with high praise as the embodiment of Naya Pakistan just a few months ago.
Now, they are even claiming that Imran Khan is not succeeding and the corrupt politicians remain at large. They say that the present system of parliamentary democracy is fundamentally flawed. They cite the examples of recent pre-arrest bails granted to former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz by the Lahore High Court on 8 April, a day before the two were indicted by an accountability court in a corruption case.
As if courts of law do not exist under a presidential system. Or maybe in the utopian system they are putting forth, the President has the absolute power to imprison whomsoever he imagines guilty of corruption. They point towards the US, which gained strength under a presidential system while powers of the Great Britain, which shrunk from an empire to a small country, waned under the parliamentary form of government.
The presidential, or rather the so-called Islamic Presidential System (yet undefined), is being portrayed as one that would allow the Supreme Leader to be all in all, unencumbered by sold-out members of parliament and purchasable senators, who keep a Prime Minister blackmailed with changing loyalties (which is actually a factually incorrect assertion – Pakistani constitution now forbids floor crossing, and a member of the House has to give up his seat and contest election again to join another party).
And their hashtags even entered mainstream electronic media debates and the clueless governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Shah Farman, endorsed a public referendum on the subject, for which there is no room in the Constitution of Pakistan.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry was even forced to dismiss the debate.
A star genius, who goes by the title of ‘economist’, and whose solution to every economic problem of Pakistan was Imran Khan bringing back $200m black money stashed abroad, is even tweeting a slide of made-up numbers to demonstrate how Pakistan’s GDP growth was always far superior under Presidents Ayub Khan, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, and Pervez Musharraf. Farrukh Saleem is the one who used to keep attacking the previous government with corruption allegations and advises Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the ruling establishment now.
As if for each one of Generals Zia and Ayub’s 11-year stints, the economy grew at exactly 7 per cent. Notwithstanding the fact that the growth rates shown in the chart are fictitious, the gent ‘economist’ ignores the fact that Ayub benefited from entering the SEATO-CENTO alliance and the aid it consequently brought, whereas the other two benefited from war economies with aid dollars flowing in from the US. Fascinatingly, his chart stops at 2012, and doesn’t bother to show the five years of Nawaz Sharif government’s period of growth under the same parliamentary system that he was putting down through incorrect figures.
These actors created widespread confusion in Pakistan with their posts because as they have represented both the PTI and the establishment in the past. But their new campaign for presidential government have not been endorsed either by Imran Khan or any other important member of his party or cabinet. They haven’t even used the current parliamentary system as an excuse for their failures. More significantly, if by some magic, such a presidential system is imposed on Pakistan, it will not be designed to make Imran Khan the Khalifa President with absolute powers. Instead Gen (retd) Raheel Sharif’s name is being bandied about. Hence it has rightly provoked a reaction from the government’s spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry.
Senior political analysts see this as institutional memory and the undying wish, of the establishment to rule Pakistan as one unit with an iron fist. However, not only has this dream met with stiff resistance from mainstream political parties and the country’s intelligentsia, it is unlikely to find favour with the PTI as well.
PMLN member of the National Assembly Shaista Pervaiz said, “After attempting to paint a donkey as a zebra by painting white lines on it, shenanigans of presidential system have been started”. Senior journalist Murtaza Solangi’s reaction was, “you might as well just impose martial law”.
I reminded Hamza Ali Abbasi of Pakistan’s history thus, “Dear genius, shall I tell you a secret? Bangladesh came into existence in the period of “President” Yahya’s Presidential System.”
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, leader of the People’s party, has repeatedly rejected the notion outright, saying it’s a formula for further breakup of the country.
In final analysis, it appears that this particular adventure neither has any constitutional way forward, nor a majority in Parliament to support it. Nor has it found any supporters even in the establishment’s own puppet setup in power, except a few trolls who will create and trend any fake trend they are ordered to.
The author is a Pakistani columnist and human rights defender. Views are personal.
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