By Dr. Nayyer Ali

September 12, 2008

Pakistan’s Presidency

By the time this is published, Asif Ali Zardari will likely have been elected President of Pakistan.  Back in 1997 he had been tossed into jail by Nawaz Sharif, and stayed there for several years till Musharraf released him.  His relationship with Benazir Bhutto was widely reputed to be minimal at best, as the two lived essentially separate lives in exile.  However, when the political situation changed and Benazir was able to come back, Zardari was able to ride along and got a Presidential pardon for all prior crimes from Musharraf as part of the NRO that dismissed most of the senior judges in November 2007.
When Benazir was killed, the dynastic politics of Pakistan and the PPP led to Zardari essentially inheriting the country’s largest political party.  After winning the election, the PPP cobbled together a national unity government with the PML-N, a coalition that eventually forced the resignation of President Musharraf.
But at this point the two sides split.  Nawaz Sharif was demanding the full restoration of the old judges, an act that would likely result in a voiding of the NRO of Musharraf and hence a return of the legal cases against Zardari. Meanwhile, Sharif was hoping that his longstanding support of the deposed Chief Justice would lead the judge to dismiss the cases against Sharif and reinstate his ability to participate in Parliament, thereby returning him to the Prime Minister’s office.
The PPP was willing to restore the judges, but not in the way Sharif wanted.  Instead it would be through a mechanism that would keep the NRO pardons intact. As Sharif declined this, Zardari decided to ignore Sharif and go for the power of the Presidency directly. With the support of some of the smaller parties, he had enough votes to become President.
The question now is: is this the democracy that everyone was hoping for?  What is so democratic about a President with vast powers, including the ability to dissolve Parliament, dismiss the Prime Minister, select the military service chiefs, and also be commander in chief?  Shouldn’t these powers belong to the Prime Minister?
This is the heart of the serious constitutional issue that Pakistan must address to become a real democracy.  The relationship of the Presidency to the elected Parliament is far too ambiguous and anti-democratic as currently enshrined. If the President is to continue to be elected by the Parliament and provincial assemblies, then it really should only be a ceremonial post.  This means that Pakistan must amend its constitution to remove the significant powers that are currently with the President.
It is possible for Pakistan to have a powerful and democratic President, but that would require a direct national vote for the office.  That would also require a constitutional amendment.  
Earlier this summer, the PPP and PMLN both agreed that the President had far too much power, and wanted to amend the constitution to limit these powers.  At the time, the two sides agreed that they would elect a non-partisan figure to fill the reduced post.  Now that Zardari is President, will he really have any interest in limiting his extensive powers?  And what does this mean for the evolution of real democracy in Pakistan?



Deflating Japan

Bush’s Axis of Evil

Speaking to Non-Muslims

If Arafat Were Jinnah

The Shape of Things to Come

South Asia Expert Calls for Negotiations on Kashmir

Kashmir After the Cold War

Kashmir Quagmire: How It Started

Kashmir: Where We’ve Been

Make Way for the Euro

Will there Be a Muslim Palestine?

Careful, Careful

Our Growing Community

Pakistan’s Golden Opportunity

Musharraf’s Reform Plans

Pakistan’s Afghan Dilemma

Humanity on the Move

Strategies of America, Pakistan and Benazir

Winners and Losers

America’s Strategy Defang the Fundamentalists

The Noose Tightens

Pakistan in America

Musharraf’s Moment

A Sad Day for America, A Sad Day for Islam

Repeal the Blasphemy Law

Bush’s Stem Cell Compromise

The Depressing Stock Market

An Evening on Human Development

“Benazir” Takes Over in Indonesia

Race Riots in Britain

Global Warming or Just Hot Air?

Milosevic on Trial

Russia’s Collapse

Economic Recovery in Pakistan?

President Khatami’s Re-election

Lifting Sanctions on Pakistan

Israel’s Moral Burden

A Break in the Logjam?

The Second American Century

Pakistan’s Constitution

Dr. Lodhi in Los Angeles

Literacy: The Road Forward

Why Yusuf Can't Read

Literacy: The Glass is Half Full

Blowing Up Buddha

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Pakistan

Did You See the Moon?

Cornrows, Ali Khan, and Culture

Will the Children Go To Harvard?

Muslim Political Progress

Information Technology Gets A Boost

Sand and Oil

On Lieberman

Pakistan Builds A Tank

Kashmir in the Nuclear Age

Full Speed Ahead on Privatization

A Muslim France?

Too Much Food

Watching the Election Why Are We Hollywood’s Villains?

A Tyrant Falls

Taliban Victorious

The Walking Whale of Pakistan
The Joy of Air Travel?

The Amazing American Economy
Arafat and Jerusalem

Names For The Children

Population: Too Many or Too Few?

It Does Matter

Aziz Goes For Growth

The Military Government's First Budget

L'Affaire Salam

End Sanctions on Iraq

Third World Democracy

Light Weapons Trade on the Rise

Iran Reforms

Back to the Future

The Saudis and OPEC Mature

How Can We Help Pakistan Develop?

Report Card on Musharraf

IMF Vs Pakistan

A Candid Discussion on Foreign Policy Issues

A Sad Tale of Missed Opportunities

Cold War In Kashmir

Whither Afghanistan?

National Security and Literacy

Pakistan Votes

The People Win

What is an Islamist?

Selling the Crown Jewels

Still Not Government

One Year After the Taliban

Benazir's Folly

Iraq and Oil

Saddam and Iraq - I

Saddam and Iraq - 2

Muslim Democracy

Zakat and Capitalism

Zakat and Capitalism - 2

The Economy Picks Up

The American Military: Power without Limit?

Good Foreign Policy is Good Anti-Terrorism Policy

The Arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammad

Bush Takes a Gamble

Bush Attacks

Besieging Baghdad

Darkness in Saddam's Bunker

Piccadilly It Aint Qissa Khani Is Still Qissa Kahani

Ed Asner and Afghanistan's Progress

Bush Delivers a Roadmap

Liberation or Imperialism

The Roadmap

Economic Rebound

Musharraf in Los Angeles

Economic Growth will lead to Democracy

Trapped by Myths and Fantasies

The Surge in Karachi Stocks

Bush's Busted Budget

America's Broken Healthcare

Time to Buy Stocks?

Islam, the State, and Human Rights

30 Years after the Oil Shock

The Future of Oil Wealth

Pakistan, India and Human Development

Pakistan's Eid Present

Iraq, Democracy and Islam

The End of Saddam Hussein

Three Wins for Pakistan

The Islamabad Declaration

Kerry's Big Wins

Repeal Hudood and Blasphemy

Bush's Growing Vulnerability

What Has Aziz Done?

Bits and Pieces

The Growth of India

Chaos in Iraq

Bush Caves in to Sharon

Abuse at Abu Ghraib

Too Harsh, Musharraf

The BJP Loses

What Do the Jihadis Want?

The Pak Economy: Bigger than We Think

Is America Richer than Europe?

Prime Minister Aziz

Unbundling WAPDA

Musharraf's Uniform

Chess Game in Kashmir

Three States, Three Debates

What's Wrong with the Democrats?

Can Elections Bring Peace to Iraq?

Elections in Iraq

Can Generals Yield to Democrats?

IMF Give Pakistan an “A”

Improve Higher Education in Pakistan

A Framework for Reconciliation

Iraq’s Elections By

Privatizing Power

Bullish in Karachi

Palestinians Should Abandon Suicide Bombings

The F-16’s

Bush’s Social Security Plan

Growth and Investment

Patronage Versus Policy

Aziz, the PML, and 2007

Are We Running out of Oil?

Purchasing Power

Economic Progress

Social Progress

PTCL and the Privatization Roller-coaster

Bombing in Britain

The Ummah is Not a Tribe

Is the US Oppressing the Muslims?

Is Iraq Dissolving?

Sharon Retreats

Pakistan and Israel

The Earthquake

The Other Earthquakes

The Battle for the Supreme Court

Pakistan’s Physician Exports

Beginning of the End in Palestine

Intelligent Design and Other Religious Beliefs

Shifting Populations in South Asia

Sharon’s Stroke

Building Dams

Hamas in Charge

Free Elections in 2007

Muslim Perspectives on Zionism

Iraq Falls Apart

Big Successes in Privatization

Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions

Global Warming

Dennis Ross on the Middle East

What Makes an Islamic State?

The Iraq War

Strong Growth, Falling Poverty

Buffett and His Billions

Why Peace Is Elusive in the Middle East

How Poor is Poor?

How Poor is Poor?
Pakistan’s Growth Moment

Declare a Palestinian State

The London Bomb Plot

Who Won the Lebanon War?

Iran, Israel, and the Bomb

The Pope’s Speech

Democrats Win!

The Republicans Lick Their Wounds

Finally, Some Enlightened Moderation

The Error in the War on Terror

Economic Challenges for Pakistan

Reshaping the Middle East - Part 1

Reshaping the Middle East - Part Two

The Surge to Defeat

Whither Palestinians?

Pakistan and Afghanistan

Blind to the Future?

Musharraf Goes Too Far

Letter from Lahore

Can Musharraf Escape His Own Trap?

Will Healthcare Swallow the Economy?

Israel’s Surprise Offer

The Economy Surges Again

Al Gore Should Run

Pakistan’s Arms Industry

Any Exit from Iraq?

Deal, No Deal, or Many Deals

Nawaz Comes and Goes

Will Musharraf Wriggle Through?

Can We Stop Global Warming?

Bush’s Sputtering “War on Terror” Loses Again

Mental Health at Guantanamo Bay

What a Mess!

Will Musharraf’s Errors Prove Fatal?

How About Some Good News?

Anyone but Nawaz

China, India, and Pakistan: Whose Citizens Live Best?

Electing the Next President

Benazir’s Tragedy

Pakistan Election

Democracy and Pakistan

False Hopes in Palestine

Dinner with Shaukat Aziz

How Real Were Aziz’s Reforms?

The State of Pakistan

A Real Debate on Iraq

Stop Negotiating

Severe Challenges Face Pakistan’s Economy

Mindless Obsession with Musharraf

After Musharraf, More Musharraf?

Can Obama Do It?

Pakistan’s Poverty Profile

Economic Crisis in Pakistan

Can Obama Beat McCain?

Was the Aziz Boom a Mirage?

Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
© 2004 . All Rights Reserved.