LAHORE  -     Long ago, South Korea’s ambassador to Islamabad visited the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry. During discussions with the traders and industrialists, the envoy was asked about the secret of development of his country.

It came as a pleasant surprise to everybody when he disclosed that the credit for South Korea’s development goes to a Pakistani economist. Then he explained that it was Dr Mehbubul Haq who had given a development plan to his country which was implemented in letter and spirit.

(The writer was present at the meeting referred to).

But, unfortunately, the same Dr Mehbubul Haq remained finance and planning/development minister of the country for many years during Gen Zia’s period but nothing changed. (Ten rupees were equal to one dollar at the time when he un-pegged the two currencies in early 80s. The free fall of rupee had started then). After the 1985 party-less elections, then prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo appointed Yasin Khan Wattoo (a former PPP secretary general) finance minister, confining Dr Haq to planning and development portfolio. He did not like the bifurcation of his domain and resigned after some time despite the fact that he had been elected as a Senator).

The point is that Pakistan has many talented people with brilliant ideas. But our problem is that we don’t implement their ideas for one reason or the other. We leave things half way and switch over to other plans.

These days a debate has started that presidential system is more suitable to Pakistan and the parliamentary system should be scrapped as it has failed to deliver. Who says the parliamentary system has failed or the presidential system will bring about a revolution in the country? Both the assumptions are baseless and must be rejected immediately. It’s totally a ridiculous idea and should not be considered even for a moment. Such a plan will only detrack the country which is already facing countless problems.

Likewise there is no need for changing the local government system.

If somebody thinks that the country is not progressing under the parliamentary system, the responsibility rests with people holding responsible positions, not the system. The leaders have failed to discharge their obligations. Had they risen above their personal interests and performed their duties well, the situation would not have been what it is at present.

But if the functionaries who are supposed to run the system are dishonest, corrupt, sluggish, incapable or inefficient, the country would not move ahead, no matter what system in practice.

Our parliamentarians have collectively failed to steer the country out of the deepening economic crisis - and they can’t be expected to perform better even in the presidential system.

Those behind the idea of presidential system should not forget that no major political party is for the change of system – nor will it be easy for anyone to translate it into reality.

To change the system the existing Constitution would have to be scrapped and a new one drafted. And a new Constitution can only be drafted by a Constituent Assembly, which will have to be elected through elections. At a time when the society is totally divided, consensus on a new Constitution for presidential system can’t even be imagined.

A new Pandora’s box should not be opened at a time when the country faces threats from the Eastern and Western borders. There is a need for complete unity, not disunity.

The same argument holds good for the local government system. There is no need for the change of this system with the change of government. The country has already tried and tested various systems – but the problems remained unsolved. Repeating the same mistakes will not bring different results.

The local government system in practice should be allowed to continue. Efforts are needed to bring better, honest people to the fore to run it.

Everybody has witnessed that the police culture remains unchanged even after the change of their uniforms. The real problem is reformation of the man in uniform, not the colour or design of the outfit.

No change can be brought about by changing the uniform a million times.