4th February 2008

Directly elected President
According to the 1973 constitution, the president of the federation is just a useless figurehead. Perhaps the words of the first president under this constitution (Chaudhry Fazl Elahi) sum it up nicely: "No one responds even when I shout abusive words."General Zia, of course, changed the whole character of the constitution by introducing article 58(b), which allows a president to sack the prime minister and dissolve the assemblies. But should an indirectly elected president have such sweeping powers? But then, how to get rid of a corrupt or inefficient prime minister? We have seen how the country suffered in the past. The people are helpless when they see that the government ministers are not interested in bettering the lot of the masses. At that time, one sincerely wishes that there was some way of removing them from power.At that time, a powerful president can do something. But in Pakistan, the president has no moral authority, since he is elected by the provincial assemblies and the senate. Perhaps we should think of amending the constitution so that the president is elected directly by the people (this is the system in the US or France).A president elected directly would be a powerful person, and if he felt that the government was incapable of performing its functions, he could dismiss the prime minister or dissolve the assemblies. At the moment, this seems to be the only answer to the present constitutional crisis.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2008