Democracy has not delivered. There was rejoicing as the first civilian transfer of power took place after the 2013 elections. But it has been downhill since then. The poor have seen no relief. For them life gets more and more unbearable by the day. There is talk, even hope, of a military takeover to clean out the rot that the politicians have created. So, is democracy not the answer for Pakistan? Well, at least not the version that we have.

When architects design a building they need to know something about where it will be built and who will use it. The nature of the soil, the climate, and the surrounding environment, all factor into what the building will look like. The design of governance structures has a similar imperative. It would be foolish to build a replica of the UK houses of parliament in Islamabad. Yet we have not hesitated in adopting the Whitehall model of democracy as our own. And since it was not designed to meet our particular circumstances it has not worked.

The question is: What would work? Let’s start by suggesting a possible design. Here is what it would look like:

It would be a presidential system with a directly elected president who will be the chief executive of the country. There will be two chambers, as we have now. Election to the lower chamber - the parliament - would be by proportional representation instead of the as now ‘first past the post’ system. Senators in the upper house would be directly elected rather than selected by the lower house.

The president will be free to appoint his cabinet from anywhere. The sole criterion will be competence to do the job. Ministers would be selected from university professors, corporate managers, lawyers or other professionals. The president would not be able to appoint ministers from either of the two houses. All appointed ministerial candidates would have to be approved by both houses of parliament.

Elected representatives would not be given any development funds. These funds will be channeled through local bodies or concerned provincial or federal departments.

At first sight these proposed changes might seem innocuous but taken together they will bring a fundamental change to Pakistan’s politics.

The direct election of the president will mean that never in the future will we have a president, as we had in the recent past, who is universally despised. The people will elect whomever they deem worthy of the position.  And the collective wisdom of the people will never settle for an unworthy, corrupt or incompetent candidate.

The right of the president to appoint anyone he deems competent to the cabinet will open the door to the best people in the country to head up government ministries. And this in turn will bring much needed reform and a culture of service, efficiency and professionalism to these critical public service agencies.

Most of the people who now seek to become members of parliament do so for the spoils - a ministership or development funds. In the new system they will get neither. So there will be little incentive for the usual culprits - the waderas and gaddinashins - to spend their ill-gotten wealth in a venture that promises no return. The salutary result will be that eventually only those people will seek election that have a genuine interest in legislation and public service. Our assemblies will become places of merit and excellence rather than the boorish talk shops that they now are.

The direct election of Senators to the upper house will mean that the unsavoury horse trading that takes place for lower house votes will end.

The system of proportional representation in elections to the lower house will ensure more inclusivity. The present ‘first past the post’ system is in some sense undemocratic by design. In a close contest - let’s say the winner has 51 percent of the vote and the loser 49 percent; forty nine percent of the people end up without representation. Proportional representation will fix this defect by giving them a voice in parliament.

The same pattern will apply in the provinces: Governors will be directly elected. Their cabinets will consist of professionals. They will not be able to appoint ministers from the assemblies. Assembly members will not receive any development funds. Again the same salutary benefits that accrue at the national level will trickle down to the provincial level.

So far so good. But there remains the minor issue of how to implement this proposed system. The only way it can be done, without resort to extra constitutional measures, is as follows: A party or a like minded group of parties at some point in the future acquire a two thirds majority in both houses. They make the necessary constitutional amendments to enact the new system. Parliament is dissolved. A caretaker government is set up. Elections take place under the new system.

This seems like asking for the Moon. But sometimes, even the Moon, may not be as far as it seems. This is a quote from a speech that former US President John F Kennedy made when he announced in 1962 America’s goal to put men on the moon: “We choose to go to the Moon [..] and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, [..] because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win ...”

The question for us is: Are we willing to accept the challenge to save our future?