ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s experience with parliamentary democracy has not been very enviable. Political parties have failed to make the most of this system. Each experience of democratic tenure has resulted in sheer disappointments, if not failures. In the early and mid-90s, corruption tainted the two major political parties. After the Musharraf years, the transition to parliamentary democracy has again been overshadowed by allegations of corruption and plundering of public funds on an unprecedented scale. A debate is expected to start in the country soon about the viability of the parliamentary system and whether Pakistan would be better off with the presidential system.

The real power brokers have been grappling with this idea for quite some time, and there is a strong sentiment in favor of a presidential system. There are two models of the presidential system in review: American system or the semi-presidential system of France. In the latter order, the president appoints a prime minister but retains control over real levers of power. The Turkish model is also of particular interest.The major ruling parties would be averse to a presidential system of governance. However, Imran Khan might relish it. And, the PTI government might end up doing the spadework for an eventual change of system in the country. Already some columns have appeared in the Urdu press, stressing on the need to have a presidential system and dilating on the failures of the parliamentary democracy. Interestingly, some astrologers and tarot card readers in TV shows hosted in the last week of 2018 also predicted of a presidential system in the country. It appeared more like a public opinion molding campaign than a genuine gaze into the crystal ball. 

Nonetheless, if one attempts to give political prognosis without relying on the cosmic tabulation, the following are the contours of the emerging scenario in the medium-long term. The Arab countries will bankroll the current government away from default after agreements have been sealed with the backing of the Establishment. Relations with China will be drastically recalibrated and many of the pacts and projects signed by the previous government will either be revised or shelved. The lessons learned from the years of engagement with the United States have made the (deep) state wary of getting entangled into a similar arrangement with another power. Internally, all notables of the politic class, who defined the politics of the last two decades, will be made to fade away ingloriously. The Establishment has spurned dynasty politics. The media is already tamed and cowed down; further restrictions will be imposed on social media. A Chinese model of the Internet seems very appealing to the powers-that-be.

A dominant player of the Establishment once hailed Imran Khan as the only honest politician. Most of the commandments of that player have come true: judiciary coming in to check the errant politicians and governments, mainstreaming of religious militants into politics and marginalizing of the entrenched politicians and their progeny. The last unfinished business is that of an introduction of the presidential system. Gradually but surely, a new system of a strong man – once the dawn of Imran Khan led change fades away— beckons us.