Despite the government’s assurances that the 18th Amendment is here to stay and that a “presidential system” is not being considered, the talk surrounding these moves just doesn’t seem to go away. TV anchors keep debating its pros and cons – almost in a coordinated fashion – while columnists have started filling pages with visions of an alternative future. Here and there a ruling party member or government official drops a breadcrumb that sustains speculations even further, while the term “technocratic” is being thrown about with reckless abandon. Perhaps most tellingly of all, the opposition keeps proclaiming that it will resist any such move tooth and nail, preemptive of any official action.

There seems to be no logic in this phantom debate. However, where there is smoke, there must be fire, and the smoke grows thicker every day.

If the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government’s worldview is anything to go by one can certainly expect them to favor extreme centralization. The Prime Minister’s disdain for the legislature and its proceedings is quite evident. He doesn’t attend its sessions and his party has pushed for no major legislation in the considerable time that has passed since the election. If the premier could have it his way he would rule by executive ordinance – a wish that has expressed before, only to be met by widespread criticism.

His cabinet is another example of his preferred mode of governance. He has inducted as many 22 non-elected people in his cabinet, including five advisers and 17 special assistants. Without ministers to handle these portfolios he essentially becomes the final voice on decisions taken in the relevant ministries – giving him more power than a Prime Minister normally wields under our constitution.

The preference of unaccountable technocrats over elected officials – although the Prime Minister’s prerogative - is also worrying. The elected representatives of the people and the wider party seem to have very little say in how the government is being run.

These practices, coupled with the increasing talk of a “presidential system” – which is shorthand for an elected dictatorship – seems to indicate that the government does intend to curtail the de-centralization and devolution that has been achieved during the last decade. Despite this, the fact remains: it does not have the numbers in the National Assembly to push through either of these proposals.

Till then we can expect further stop-gaps measures and workarounds that will allow the Prime Minister to rule with as little interference as possible.