ISLAMABAD     -   The major and smaller Opposition parties in the Senate have rejected the on-going campaign for bringing presidential form of government in the country.

They say that those talking about replacing the present parliamentary form of system with the presidential one were actually playing with the fire and this would lead to further political instability in the country.

Recently, at least three different constitutional petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court seeking directives for holding a referendum to bring presidential form of government in Pakistan.

The referendum should be held by the prime minister only after seeking approval from a joint sitting of parliament, says one of the petitions moved by Hum Awam Pakistan Party, a little-known political party. The petition seeks to invoke Article 184(3) of the Constitution that deals with the Supreme Court’s powers to enforce citizens’ fundamental rights.

The petition claims that the parliamentary form of government has failed to work for the welfare and progress of the people.  The opposition lawmakers said that that change in form of government would bring a fundamental change in the 1973 Constitution which could not be brought only through a referendum but a constituent assembly could do so.

“The presidential form of government is a failed experience of the past which the country cannot afford again,” said Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan, the parliamentary leader of PML-N in the Senate, in an interview to The Nation. He viewed that practically, there remained presidential form of government in the country when military rulers governed the country for decades. He noted that some politicians who have no support among public used to talk about bringing a new system instead of asking the present rulers to improve governance while remaining in the present parliamentary system.

The opposition party lawmaker further said that the campaign for presidential system was a conspiracy against the parliamentary system and was tantamount to push the country towards failure. “The genuine politicians who believe in democracy and the right of the people to rule can never talk about presidential system,” he said adding that parliamentary system was a fundamental of the 1973 Constitution.

These constitutional petitions are misplaced and an attempt to further political instability, and sow the seeds of polarization within the federation, said former chairman Senate and PPP stalwart Raza Rabbani in a statement, earlier this week.

He said that the people since 1947 had struggled for “a federal, democratic and parliamentary form of government” which were one of the basic principles of the Constitution. “The parliamentary form of government has, time and again, been enunciated in numerous judgements of superior courts as one of the foundations of the Constitution.”

Rabbani said that a change in the form of government was a fundamental change in the Constitution which could not be the subject matter of a writ petition.  The courts have held that if such a fundamental change is desired, fresh elections must be held for a constituent assembly and a proposition put before the nation, he noted. 

“Whoever seeks to alter the fundamentals of the Constitution through courts must be conscious of the fact that this will lead to institutional clashes and grave political instability, which the federation can ill-afford in the present circumstances,” the opposition PPP lawmaker warned.

Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) Senator Usman Khan Kakar while talking to The Nation said that the presidential system was neither acceptable to the government nor opposition. “No one should have any misunderstanding that the present parliamentary system could ever be replaced with another one,” he said adding that nationalist parties would never accept any new form of government.