September 2nd, 2020

                                        By Rehan Piracha


Two constitutional petitions that have been filed in the Supreme Court share mysteriously similar quotes, text, and arguments in their drafts, a comparative reading of the petitions has revealed. Both petitions are pushing for a form of government without a parliament – one with only a Senate, while the other a Presidential form of government.

The petitioners were to file a jointly drafted petition before the apex court but differences over the final text of the draft led them to file separate petitions.

The first petition was filed by Tahir Aziz, chairman of Hum Awam Party, on August 27 while the second petition was filed a day later on August 28 by Sadiq Ali, an engineering graduate of NUST, who in his petition claimed he was the holder of a patent of a ‘variable mass flywheel turbine’.

The sketchy idea of a presidential system

The petitioners also differ in their thoughts over the presidential system they want people to vote on in a referendum. Speaking on the phone to from Karachi, Tahir Aziz says the model of the presidential system is undecided, but the first step is that people get to vote in a referendum of whether they want a presidential system of governance in the country. Tahir Aziz favors the Turkish model of presidency rule. On the other hand, Sadiq Ali, who prides himself as an investor, says a model needs to be invented once people decide for the presidential rule.

Word to word, the petitions are the same!

The two petitions build their arguments against the present parliamentary system in the country citing statistics on Pakistan’s economy, foreign debts, and poverty in exactly the same quotes.

“Currently Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the World with an estimated population of 212 million people. According to the United Nations’ observations, this population is estimated to reach 403 million by 2050. Pakistan has also one of the World’s largest youth populations with 64%of Pakistanis now under the age of 30. Pakistan is ranked as 122nd out of 190 countries in the World in the opinion of the World Health Organisation’s performance report in terms of quality and accessibility of health care. This growing population will put catastrophic pressures on human resources leaving tens of millions of people jobless. This trend would further almost inevitably lead to further destabilization of Pakistan’s already fragile political system.”

The following paragraph is also duplicated word for word in both the petitions.

“As of March 2020, the public debt of Pakistan is estimated to be about Rs. 42.8 trillion/$ 256 billion, which is 98.2% of its GDP, and the external debt of Pakistan is around $ 112 billion. Pakistan owes $ 5.765 billion to International Monetary Fund (IMF). No doubt, 25% of Pakistan’spopulation lives below the poverty line. At present, the average HDI (Human Development Index) and GDP (Gross Domestic Product)of Pakistan are the lowest as compared to other South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan.”

After the statistics, both petitions replicate the following lines: “This poor condition of masses of Pakistan directly reflects upon the system of the government in Pakistan and it has been established that the Parliamentary system of governance in the country has utterly failed.”

Both petitioners in their drafts cite and quote the Objection Resolution and interestingly quote the same verses from the Holy Quran to point that the resolution read with the relevant verses favors a presidential form of government in the country.

“Although the Objectives Resolution does not specify the form of the government to be adopted by the people of Pakistan under the Constitution, from its very language and purport when reading with the following and other injunctions of Islam as incorporated under the Holy Quran and Ahadith, it transpires that the form of the government it indicates is the Presidential form of government.”

‘Presidential system – a norm in Islamic history’?

Interestingly, both petitions also use the same words to elaborate that the presidential system is the norm in Islamic history whenever governments were formed according to the tenets of Islam.

“The Islamic history shows that whenever the government according to the injunctions of Islam was established its constitution was almost like the Presidential system as mentioned hereinabove. The governments established by the Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his four successor Caliphate most of the traits of the Presidential system as we know of today.”

Both petitioners share a liking of the French presidential system. Sadiq Ali mentions France first while Tahir Aziz touts Turkey as a stellar example before quoting French and Iranian presidential systems.

Sadiq Ali and Tahir Aziz castigate politicians over corruption, nepotism, horse-trading, and failure in delivering to the masses as promised under the parliamentary system. Both petitioners cite a lack of legislation and incompetency of parliamentarians to act as effective ministers. According to them, the presidential system was robust and efficient in handling governance.

Where the petitions differ

Interestingly Sadiq Ali suggests that the country will be better off without a National Assembly and provincial assemblies because doing away with these institutions ‘can reduce billion of rupees from the cost of governance’. Sadiq Ali’s petition further pleads “Thus a directly appointed President needs no help from Parliament to effectively implement this public service agenda. The Parliament today delays social justice thus impedes public welfare.” For Sadiq Ali Senate is enough to represent the will of the people before the President. However, Tahir Aziz is not against parliament, praying in his petition that the referendum should be approved by a joint sitting of the House.

People are clamoring for Presidential form, claim petitioners

In their conclusion, both use an exactly-worded paragraph to show that people are clamoring for a presidential form of government. “As it is apparent from the print, electronic and social media, an overwhelming majority of Pakistan are fed up with the Parliamentary form of government and want to adopt a Presidential form of government.”

Sadiq Ali and Tahir Aziz both are apprehensive of the Prime Minister Imran Khan being a willing participant to the process of holding a referendum. “But the Respondent No.2  (Prime Minister) is not acting to hold a referendum for the purpose as provided under Article 48(6) of the Constitution.” In the petitions, Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi have been made respondents.

 SC raises objections over petitions

The Supreme Court has raised objections on both the petitions. One of the objections was that the petitioners did not approach the proper forum.