Friday August 17, 2007

Presidential system favoured
LETTER (August 17 2007): It should now be obvious that the parliamentary system of government is not suited for Pakistan. One of the main reasons is that the prime minister (who happens to be the chief executive of the country, according to the constitution), is elected by a simple majority of the members of the National Assembly, which comprises 342 members.

If 172 members vote for a particular person, he or she gets elected to the most powerful post in the country. Obviously, if the head of the party polling the highest number of popular votes doesn't have the numbers necessary to get elected, horse trading results. This has happened so many times in the country's history that it doesn't bear reminding. In the present assembly, some members belonging to the People's Party are in the government, although morally they should be in the opposition.

It's also very strange that Pakistan (with a population of 160 million) has only 342 members in the lower house, while the UK where the parliamentary system originated, has 646 members with a population of 61 million. Based on this formula, Pakistan should have 1,600 members in the National Assembly. This would not only mean more representation of the people in the lower house, but also a more equal distribution of the national wealth. Horse trading would be more difficult, with more members required to be persuaded during confidence motions as well as sensitive issues.

But perhaps the biggest drawback of the parliamentary system is that it can result in a party coming into power despite polling much less than half the votes cast in an election. This happened in 1970 when the Awami League swept to power in former East Pakistan, gaining all but two seats despite polling only 38 percent of the votes cast.

In fact, its leader (Mujibur Rahman) should have become the prime minister of Pakistan, since his party had the largest number of votes and he could have got elected prime minister without the support of the other parties. This was not allowed to happen by our military-cum-political combine ruling the country in those days, with the result that Pakistan was dismembered.

Perhaps the time has come to adopt the presidential system of government, with the president being elected by the people (instead of the provincial assemblies, as at present). An automatic check and balance system will result, with politicians being more responsible and (hopefully), less corrupt.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2007