Presidential or parliamentary democracy?


What can be the ideal system for Pakistan?

In order to avoid anarchy and chaos, a nation needs a constitutional framework to adhere to, so that its masses can live under a set of rules to follow, a government system to rule over them, rule of law to be practiced, good governance to be ensured and checked and balances and accountability to be observed. However, it all requires a specific model of government that is swift, dynamic and competitive in nature.

According to me a pro-presidential democratic government along with local bodies should be practiced. As there are several issues in parliamentary form of government in the context of Pakistan; including the caste system, feudalism, weak political parties, threat of no confidence against the prime minister, horse trading (also possible in a Presidential system but a gift of a parliamentary system) and lesser accountability. This is coupled with the shambolic history of the implementation of a parliamentary system in Pakistan.

Ever since the first constitution was passed in 1956, two more constitutions have been added to the journals of history. Presently, we are ‘in theoretical perspective’ following the Constitution of 1973 with 20 amendments. But, there was a shift in the constitutions when General Ayub Khan abrogated the first ever constitutions of Pakistan in 1956 that voiced for Parliamentary system. Ayub after abrogating the constitution brought another constitution in 1962 that was somewhat entirely opposite to the parliamentary form of government, where President can have the ultimate power and authority over everything. Though Ayub did that for personal interest as he wanted to validate his rule and wanted to avoid any kind of rebellion against him. That’s why he introduced an apolitical system where everything will be done without any political party, local bodies were strengthened. For that purpose EBDO and PRODO were presented to keep all types of political activities out of the governmental matters.

On the other hand a Parliamentary form of government that is the major element of 1973 constitution that makes Prime Minister the most power person and President as the least powerful person. Moreover people cannot elect their PM directly, who is elected by the members of the parliament after general elections.

The Westminster Parliamentary system which is best for Great Britain because its developed, it doesn’t mean that the form of government which is best for one country will suitable for other country. Even in the entrenched democracy, the way Margaret Thatcher was changed mid way of her tenure by the ruling party is a case in point. In Pakistan, at least seven prime ministers took oath and none of them completed the tenure. Similarly from 1988 to 1999, the PPP and Muslim League were twice returned to power, but none could complete the tenure due to their intolerance towards each other, and were sent packing under 58-2(B) though it’s been omitted after 18th amendment but nothing fruitful came out.

Moreover, a constant rift between PM and President has been observed if they are from different political parties. Though it talks about the pure democratic outlooks but lacks the aroma of real democracy in it. Parliamentary system also benefits the political parties and the families being part of political parties, giving the ultimate power in the hands of bureaucrats to decide everything for the masses. Eventually, leading towards a shaky government system if one considers the situation of Pakistan only.

If one consider Ayub’s intention behind presidential system for Pakistan, then it was surely not at all suitable for Pakistan. As he introduced this system to benefit himself so that no political party or political activist can plot against him. But, keeping Ayub’s intention aside, if one pays a deeper insight on the elements of Presidential form of government specifically for Pakistan, then it’s more than suitable. This perception might not be acceptable by a the parliamentary democratic school of thought, because they would have the opinion that giving power in one hand might be equivalent to dictatorship and authoritarianism but this fact should also be kept in minds that person who will have the ultimate power shall be directly elected by the masses at large, however on realistic grounds, Pakistan needs a sole single authority that can unite this scattered and troublesome nation. And to attain that a presidential system is best suited for Pakistan as it prevents horse trading, plutocracy, corruption (to some extent), make institutions accountable and enhances the system of transparency and checks and balances that parliamentary system does not ensure.

In addition, Presidential democracy is prevalent in United States of America as well that claims itself the most successful democracy in the world. The system of local government in Pakistan can be expanded in the shape of increasing the number of provinces, each headed by a governor and a locally-elected parliament. This way both responsibility and prosperity will be transferred to local voters, that ultimately will give birth to bottom-up approach in policy making where people will voice for their own rights, their needs, they will have their own representative within themselves who are more deep rooted than our parliamentarians. Moreover, a presidential system in case of Pakistan will also lead towards more smooth function of power as there will be no other authority to consult and exercise its power, confusions and ambiguities will not take place, as if one looks deep into the tenure of Ayub, he was the only one to take major decisions for the country, and most of the reform agendas he presented were fair enough as long as the welfare and progression of a state is concerned (keeping his other intentions aside). Secondly, a person once elected by a clear majority, the legitimacy of the president both moral and constitutional is not in dispute; and unless impeached he completes the tenure. Protagonists of this system believe that it serves as a bulwark against perpetual political upheavals, allows stable functioning of government and a peaceful change of political power. So, according to me parliamentary system, though it’s progressively working in many of the countries but in case of Pakistan it did not turn-up as fruitful as expected.

At the end of the day, it is not about which system is better but which system is better for our country. The objective of adopting any system is to create a government that is able to protect its interests and strengths outwards while maintaining a robust internal political system that creates and breeds leadership and focuses on the future.

According to me Parliamentary democracy with its multiple centers of power is not suited to Pakistan and the offices of the prime minister and the provincial chief ministers can be abolished in favor of a strong presidential democracy. This will strengthen accountability, reduce tensions, and ensure smooth policy execution. Where the country stands today, and regardless of the idealism of Westminster democracy, putting Pakistan on the right track is not possible for the politicians alone. Nor can the military pull it off by itself. A successful, stable and prosperous Pakistan depends on a civilized and reformed political system with defined rules of the game, backed by a strong military commitment in the background and a sensible pro-presidential form of government with the amalgamation of Local bodies and Devolution Plan is required that can unite the nation under one nationalist umbrella.

Another parliamentary system can be tested after elections 2013 as it was the first time that any government has completed its 5 years term though coalition worked but yet again personal gains and interests should be kept aside and a new system should be welcomed for a change that might work for the development of Pakistan.


  1. Zoya! There need to be socialize the nation of Pakistan. Remove the prejudice among the people. Carry out reforms in govt and private departments.

  2. thank you for this information , it very well explains and helps me a lot as a students to see a bigger clearer picture of pakistan .

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