Continuation of Democracy

‘The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitution of the government.’ George Washington

By Lieutenant General Tariq Khan, HI(M) (Retd) | April 2022

The debate rages on – Presidential or Parliamentary system? Everyone has an opinion but no one wants to ask the people. Some refer to the Judiciary, others to the Constitution and yet some resort to reason and logic – but only their own reason and logic. Yet, no one feels that the people, the only relevant equation to such a decision, should even be asked; in fact, some opinionists downright reject any proposal where a referendum can settle the matter. Since some people attribute this debate to me and accuse me of generating a meaningless argument; it becomes incumbent on me to explain my position and clear the air.

Let me first clarify, I am apolitical and do not have a dog in this fight. Neither am I representative of any organization, intelligence setup, the establishment or the Army. My retired status is now eight years away and I am no longer connected to the Army – though it is an institution that I am very proud to be associated with and will continue to be proud of. I am settled in South Waziristan, I have only one passport - a Pakistani one, and am happily and gainfully involved on our family lands which have been within the family for a few centuries. For those, who accuse me of being silent when in service I can only inform them that my reputation is very public and can easily be validated; I never held back my views in service, many a times at my own peril. However, in service, such debates are never made public and should not be made public even now. It’s a question of form, decorum, honour and dignity. Still others, not being familiar with the common sentiment of national fervour, always search for something in it for the individual who is proffering his views. They fail to connect any recommendations and suggestions with attachment to one’s country and the people who live in it and instead accuse such people of being in search of employment or some other personal privilege. No I do not want a job nor do I need one. This is needed to be said only because most people attack my views on a personal note but hardly ever on reasoning, logic or the merit of the matter. Thus, going by what people have to say, my views at times, appear to be motivated by some vested interest I may have, which I need to contest and reject as an argument.

Mr Haroon Khawaja found it within himself to premise his take on the subject by paying his respects to me since he probably felt that he was contradicting my intellect. I find myself in his debt and am obliged to thank him for his thoughtfulness and honourable conduct. Nevertheless, his logic, that the presidential system may lead to a permanent Punjabi President because a Punjabi candidate would have more votes is not entirely true. The parliamentary system is also based on votes and as is now Punjab will always have greater representation because of its population – so this argument does not hold any water. Besides, out of the three Presidents that we have had, one was Pushtun, two were Muhajirs and if one wishes to throw in Yahya – he was of Afghan descent. I know that there will be an argument that they were never elected by popular vote but all the same that’s the reality of it!! His other suggestion of converting the already existing districts into provinces is simply not practical for a host of reasons, though if it was possible, I could go along with it.

Read More