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NSC and a presidential system in Pakistan?

Lt Gen Tariq Khan (R)

In the years preceding 9/11, Pakistan witnessed two thousand sectarian killings. Religion has now become a part of politics. The sitting government of the time could not find it within itself to say a few words of prayer for the departed soul of their own Governor, Salman Taseer when he was killed by his own guard. Governments were forced to review foreign policy as well as administrative policies in keeping with the maulvis’ views. This has resulted in the ridiculous spectacle of a Mullah Aziz of the Burqa fame to openly challenge the writ of the government in the heart of the capital even today or the disgusting sight of Mullah Khadim Rizvi, sitting in his wheelchair, abusing everyone in the government publicly.

If national security must address these issues it must first examine the very ethos of the state and bring back those values that the Quaid had stipulated in his first speech as well as his vision of unity, faith and discipline. No political agenda should ever be allowed to change these principles and it must be mandatory for a political manifesto to define how best it can enhance, support and develop those defined principles first and foremost. No other course can ever serve this country better and if we follow this path, reforms are recommended, which need to be put in to place with the highest priority: Judicial reforms are needed to provide a homegrown judicial system compatible with international law, to ensure equality for all and for no one to be treated as a lesser human being by profession, belief, caste, creed or birthright. De-politicisation of the Police is also needed—to make this institution independent of politicians.

It is also important to modify or rewrite the constitution. It must be remembered that this is a document provided by the ‘people’ to the legislators to ensure that they understand the limits of their power and remain confined within stipulated parameters. Human rights and individual freedom, liberty and security to life and property must be the basis of the constitution. In Pakistan, democracy has quickly become the tyranny of the majority and the constitution must address this matter. Proportional representation must be included based on ethnicity, profession and social order. Religion must be separated from state business. It should be an individual choice and not a communal business. Maulvis have to be put out of business of politics. They should be allowed to function only after being licensed and with strict code of conduct and stipulated regulations. For provinces, Pakistan must either consider the United States of Pakistan with total autonomy to the provinces or the provinces should be further divided to create about twenty or twenty-five provinces. Provincial separatist movements that keep threatening national cohesion can be addressed by creating more provinces. The people that have robbed this country must be held accountable. No plea bargains to be allowed. Closure must be brought to these matters as quickly as possible. The government has no business participating in the corporate sector and must divest all its businesses. The government must make policy and not run businesses. The power distribution system is a good illustration, the government cannot control theft, corruption and mismanagement. If handed over to the private sector and competition is encouraged, the matter of power distribution would easily be resolved.

The question that now comes up is how can these reforms should be done. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and so intent will never be enough. The current leadership, even by any conservative measure, falls under one of the three categories: corrupt, obligated or compromised and having secured their position by deceiving the people, are now free to pursue their individual agendas. Thus there is no hope that any political party can bring about these reforms no matter what good intentions they may have. Any attempt by the army or the judiciary or a combination of both would be perceived as interference in the political order and a disruption of this so-called democracy. The theme would be exploited by the international community to impose sanctions and embargoes so as to force Pakistan into some sort of pliant posture within the frame of international political order. Taking a political initiative to right the wrong in governance as it stands today by any leader who may be in a position to deliver and has the capacity or capability to do so is a very difficult decision. Yet it is like stating the obvious; the writing is on the wall and everyone knows what this country needs. It needs someone with a stout heart, who is determined to put the country on the right track. The reluctance by the individual leader always stems from a lack of confidence in one’s own capabilities and lack of clarity related to the end state. The individual feels he is alone and is frightened of the consequences if matters go wrong. These fears are easily addressed by not going out of the ambit of the current constitution and putting together a good team—an honest team of brave people, not pliant yes men. So to conclude, In Pakistan, the immediate need is the dissolution of the parliaments at the request of the Prime Minister while the National Security Council (NSC) takes on a supra-constitutional role. The Chief Justice and the leader of the opposition must be made part of it while the service chiefs are already members of the council. The NSC should then dispense governance, do the reforms through a presidential form of government with the current PM as the President. There can be no serious objection to this process and the country would benefit in leaps and bounds by circumventing the spoilers. Somewhere, along the line, at an appropriate time in a transparent manner, a referendum should be held to secure the people’s decision to switch to a presidential system with qualified technical expertise in the cabinet to assist the President to govern the country through selected Governors.