A system of government in which people directly elect representatives to the parliament is known as Parliamentary democracy. The parliament elects the prime minister from within its members who through the parliament is directly answerable to the people. The parliament is responsible for making laws and taking other important decisions for the country. In presidential democracy the president is directly elected by the people to head the executive branch. The president though independent of the legislature, works in consultation with the legislative branch on issues of national importance. The west took centuries to attain the level of democracy that exist in most of the western world today. Though its relevance and benefits to the greater world in its present form is a question mark, yet the system has visibly contributed meaningfully to the wellbeing of the western society. Courtesy capitalism and fast expanding globalization, this has in most of the cases happened at the expense of deprived people of poor regions and countries. The evolution of democratic process in western societies has undoubtedly added to the wisdom of common people in exercising their choices while choosing future leadership. It has generally been viewed that people choose its leadership primarily taking into account its domestic issues and concerns rather than their country`s international obligations associated with its international stature. The recent election of Donald Trump as US President bears testimony to this fact. The bottom line remains that people’s will is decidedly manifested in their domestic priorities first and national interests abroad later. That is what has happened in the recent US presidential elections to the surprise of many.
Subjecting third world countries to such refined processes without having them equipped for the change is an unfair ask to say the least hence the experience mostly failed wherever attempted. Common people in these countries have some specific justified expectations from potential leadership while most of their demands are usually unjustified not qualifying on merit and fair play. Potential candidates who succeeds in painting the rosiest picture to the people succeeds. Host of other factors like lack of education, ethnicity, baradarism and crookedness of candidates all contribute meaningfully to the success in election process. Making false promises to the some justified and some unjustified demands of the majority illiterate populous, the great number of crooks makes it to the corridors of power after spending millions, to be recovered as the first sacred task on attaining access to the treasury. and unattainable promises by the potential leaders over most of which they fail to deliver. The whole edifice therefore, stands on one cheating the other with utter disregard to deliverance and merit.
Pakistan in its almost 70 years of history has experienced both presidential and parliamentary systems and neither has delivered to the satisfaction of the majority. This is not for any flaw in the system but its faulty and self-centered implementation by the people running it. The periods of our presidential governments were all preceded by martial laws hence vehemently opposed by the political elite of the time as they considered it their inherited privilege and right to rule the country. There is no denying the fact that the local bodies system considered the essence of democracy and also serving as the nursery of future leadership were not only introduced during our presidential regimes but also delivered at the grass root level whenever empowered. Most of the presidents being ex-military men while possessing total powers could not deliver to the expectations as they were haunted by lack of legitimacy and political constituency thus resorting to measures mostly for perpetuating their regimes costing dearly to the system and the country in the long run. On the contrary, whenever the political elite came into power, the local bodies system was shelved for vested interests. In our parliamentary democracy, elected members of national and provincial assemblies never liked to share their powers with political workers at grassroots level. In principle, their prime responsibility being only legislation but in practice they are keener in development projects for obvious reasons. Even if we disregard the aspect of corruption and kickbacks for a moment, yet they want to remain relevant to their voters for securing their future election. Almost everywhere in the world however, developmental works fall in the domain of local governments. If we evaluate the recent past then despite having almost two full tenures of parliamentary democracy the local bodies system remains in limbo due to political expediencies.
Considering Pakistan`s internal dynamics some of the anomalies experienced with the parliamentary system are; One, the country being low on literacy and having no mature local bodies system, it is neither able to offer suitable candidates nor the populous yet groomed desirably to make rightful choices. Two; with legislative and developmental powers concentrated in the same hands, neither is attended to hence both suffers in the process. Three; with party based system sans local bodies, selective areas are chosen for developmental works thereby depriving other areas from the fruits of development. Four; with majority population concentrated in Punjab , only that political party can be in a position to form government at Islamabad which gets maximum seats from the province thus perpetually denying the opportunity of federal leadership to smaller provinces. Five; in our parliamentary system where there is hardly any intra party election, the party leadership revolves around one figure who is mostly focused on passing the baton to family kith and kin thus depriving the party and country to genuine leadership. Six; in most cases party leadership is held hostage by few financially strong and influential party members applying effective breaks on emerging potential leadership. Seven; the increasing role of money in politics effectively denies honest and experienced people the opportunity to participate thus depriving the country of their talent and contributions.
Though 70 years may not be too long a period yet it should be considered enough to evaluate the pluses and minuses of the systems we experienced. There is hence a requirement of initiating a serious debate at various tiers across the country on the suitability of either presidential or parliamentary democracy for our country. It is however, my considered opinion that given our domestic make up and experience of past 70 years, a presidential system promises better future for our country. In either of the case the system will require a robust local bodies system in place and a serious effort to create more provinces on administrative grounds with equal representation in the senate if we are truly aspiring for a strong Pakistan.