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Supreme Court Rejects Petition for Presidential Form of Government

September 28, 2021

The Supreme Court dismissed a set of appeals seeking Prime Minister Imran Khan’s immediate holding of a nationwide referendum to pave the way for a presidential system of government over the current parliamentary system.The registrar’s decision to return the four petitions filed by Advocate Sahibzada Ahmed Raza Qasuri, Dr Sadiq Ali, Hum Awam Pakistan chairman Tahir Aziz Khan, and Hafeez-ur-Rehman was upheld by a three-judge SC bench led by Justice Umar Ata Bandial.

The bench stated that the presidential form of government had caused harm to the country, and that the petitioners could launch a political movement if they truly wanted to implement the presidential system in the country, as the Constitution did not provide the Supreme Court with any remedy to change or abolish the current system.The court also reminded the petitioners that parliamentary democracy was at the heart of the 1973 Constitution, and that without clear guidance from the green book, the Supreme Court had no authority to intervene in such matters.

If the petitions had been brought by political parties, the court could have considered them, according to Justice Bandial.A member of the bench, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, recalled that Gen Ayub Khan’s presidential system had resulted in Pakistan’s disintegration.Justice Bandial questioned Ahmed Raza Qasuri about why he went to the Supreme Court when the country already had a strong and vibrant political system in place.

Advocate Qasuri claimed that lawmakers wasted time slinging insults at one another rather than discussing the public’s interests and welfare. Should he act like a silent spectator in such a situation.

Justice Akhtar recalled that in 1960, Gen Ayub Khan held a referendum on the country’s presidential system.Justice Bandial expressed regret for the country’s suffering as a result of the presidential system, and wondered if the petitioners wanted a repeat of the situation that existed in 1958. He also wondered what principle or law the court should use to order the switch to a presidential system of government.

Justice Akhtar questioned whether the presidential system ensured the people’s well-being.The petitions claimed that the failure of the current parliamentary form of government to deliver on people’s fundamental rights under Chapter 1 of Part II of the Constitution was infringing on their welfare, well-being, and progress in various fields of life was infringing on their fundamental rights. “It is thus in the interests of justice that they be given a fair chance to choose a presidential form of government if they so desire,” the petitions argued.

The petitions claimed that “the poor condition of the masses directly reflects upon the system of government in Pakistan because the parliamentary system has utterly failed,” and that the country’s public debt was estimated to be around Rs 42.8 trillion ($256 billion) as of March 2020.This massive burden is 98.2% of GDP, and Pakistan’s external debt is around $112 billion,” the petitions stated, adding that Pakistan owed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) $5.765 billion at a time when 25% of Pakistan’s population was living in poverty.

“Pakistan currently has the lowest average HDI (Human Development Index) and GDP (Gross Domestic Product) among South Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan.

“In our parliamentary system, members of parliament have a habit of switching allegiances and blackmailing and pressuring the government to advance their own personal interests. As a result, a healthy opposition and a strong government are frequently unable to emerge to ensure the welfare and well-being of the people.There is little legislation in the assemblies, and legislative meetings frequently fail due to quorum shortages,” the petitions lamented.

Another successful presidential system is that of Pakistan’s neighbour Iran, which has had a presidential form of government since 1979 despite severe economic sanctions imposed by the US and the UN. The country has made significant progress and is now financially and politically far ahead of Pakistan. According to the petitions, Indonesia, Russia, and China have all adopted the presidential form of government and are now developed countries.The petitions claimed that an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are fed up with the parliamentary form of government and want to adopt the presidential form of government as evidenced by main stream media reports.

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