Every crisis lays open opportunities for decriers to revile democracy and the parliamentary system of government in Pakistan. The solution is offered promptly in the same trite formula: a technocrat government under a presidential system of democracy.
Unfortunately, the collection of censurers includes Dr Attaur Rahman, who was the former Minister for Science and Technology and who was the former founding Chairman of the Higher Education Commission. Regrettably, the time is selected when the baton is passed to the next Chief of Army Staff (COAS). The criticism remains pregnant with the provocation: “the time for a radical change in the system is now or never.”
It is not only the office of the COAS that yearns for a gap in the democratic dispensation to cash in on, but it is also the agencies of the minions that induce the COAS to be an agent of change, the most alluring prescription on the earth after prophet-hood. From the word go, the mind of the newly appointed COAS is infested with the idea of changing the system, now or never.
Critics artfully tout the narrative as bait through op-eds claiming that Pakistan is a failing state under the parliamentary system of democracy. Further, Pakistan needs to shun the government of democrats and, instead, Pakistan should adopt the government of technocrats. A cause is sought in the statement: “as a result of massive corruption, Pakistan today is virtually in a state of economic bankruptcy, although this has not been officially admitted.” With that, disparagers present their services gratis to ensure their appointments as tailor-made technocrats in the new anticipated system.
The main reason why technocrats aspire for the presidential system in their op-eds is because this system offers the spoils (patronage) scheme to technocrats, who as campaign workers are rewarded with favours such as posts in the government. The spoils system can make them federal ministers without their being elected democratically. Unfortunately, for this narrowed and personal advantage, technocrats keep on launching propaganda campaigns against the parliamentary system, make like-for-unlike comparisons, and keep on deluding people with the advantages of the presidential system
Contentions of corruption– now garnished with the word “massive” to graduate it to “massive corruption”– has been a contrived invitation to interference in the democratic system. Hitherto, the meddling has come in two forms: martial laws and a hybrid system. The latest intrusion in the name of the hybrid system entailed a troika: the military, the judiciary and a political party (the hodgepodge). All were three equal partners until they failed to deliver as a cohort. The military was the first to fathom the failure, disrupt the triad and run away. The rest are following suit with desperation and discomfiture. Allegations and counter-allegations are being hurled– a consequence of the dying scheme.
Interestingly, technocrats who have never been democrats ridicule politicians. Further, in an effort to scoff at politicians, technocrats, as education, health or economic experts, demand the presidential system of democracy. The point is simple; the parliamentary form of government has worked satisfactorily so far in England and nowhere else, the presidential form of government has worked satisfactorily so far in the USA only.
Both systems stipulate and ensure the separation of power. Developing countries, which were mostly former colonies, are borrowers of these systems to practice democracy and revel in freedom. Both systems have their own pros and cons which need to be adjusted to the local needs. That is, ills of a system need repairs and not replacement of the whole system with the other one which is also not free of ills.
In the context of Pakistan, if dangers of the parliamentary form of government come from feudal lords, who watch their vested interests, the dangers of the presidential form of government also spring from the same class. Further, it is not only corrupt feudal lords who prevent democracy from functioning, but there are also other players. Included on the list, “pirs” (priests) who are controlling spiritualism and business tycoons who are hogging industries, sugar and textile.
To the dismay of technocrats, neither the All India Muslim League (AIML) nor Pakistan was founded by any technocrat. It was the feudal class that made both tasks possible. In 1905, in the form of the AIML, the feudal class provided the Muslims with a political platform alternative to the Indian National Congress. Post-1906, feudal lords funded the assemblies of the AIML and spent money to mobilize the Muslim masses to attend political gatherings throughout united India. The feudal money published newspapers, books and pamphlets for free distribution amongst the Muslim masses to make the recipients aware of their democratic rights vis-à-vis the Hindus. In 1913, Mohammad Ali Jinnah joined the AIML, which had been founded by feudal lords.
Technocrats from the field of science make a blunder. While making a comparison, they violate the basic scientific principle: like for like. That is, Pakistan has to be compared with a country which has similar (if not identical) realities and circumstances. For instance, Pakistan cannot be compared with Singapore. On its shoulders, Pakistan carries the burden of history and bears the realities of geography in South Asia. Both factors elude Singapore, which is an island acting as a city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. In the context of like for like, Pakistan’s nearest comparison is possible with India and then with Bangladesh. Even the latter avoids several realities that Pakistan is faced with.
Singapore’s population was only about 1.6 million in 1959, when Lee Kuan Yew was appointed (not elected) as prime minister, and subsequently he developed Singapore. Around that time, Pakistan had entered the western defence alliance against the spread of communism– the quagmire which kept Pakistan entangled till the end of 1991. Further, Singapore has a unitary, unicameral parliamentary government, whereas Pakistan has a federal bicameral parliamentary government. Hardly do these facts permit any sense of comparison.
The point is simple: technocrats deceive listeners (or readers) by ingeniously applying the formula of like for unlike. Pakistan can be compared with neither Singapore nor Switzerland. Singapore’s total area is around 733 square kms inhabited by 5,637, 000 people. In comparison, Karachi’s total area is around 3,780 square kms inhabited by around 19, 000,000 people (in 2016). That is, Singapore is a maritime emporium which may be compared with Karachi in terms of economy and development, but not with the whole of Pakistan. Not feudal lords, it is the virtue of being expert on the paper that has ruined Pakistan. By the way, Singapore’s Yew was a practising lawyer, and not a technocrat.
In Pakistan, the main reason why technocrats aspire for the presidential system in their op-eds is because this system offers the spoils (patronage) scheme to technocrats, who as campaign workers are rewarded with favours such as posts in the government. The spoils system can make them federal ministers without their being elected democratically. Unfortunately, for this narrowed and personal advantage, technocrats keep on launching propaganda campaigns against the parliamentary system, make like-for-unlike comparisons, and keep on deluding people with the advantages of the presidential system.