Supreme Court to decide maintainability of referendum pleas on Wednesday

Justice Bandial to hear appeals filed against SC office order by petitioners seeking presidential system

Hasnaat Malik November 29, 2020


The top court is set to hear appeals against its registrar office’s decision not to entertain three constitution petitions seeking presidential form of government in the country. Justice Umar Ata Bandial will hear the appeals in his chamber on December 2.

The first constitutional petition was filed by Tahir Aziz Khan, the chairman of the Hum Awam Pakistan – a little-known political party – under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution.

The petitioner requested the apex court to issue directions to the prime minister to hold a referendum for setting up a presidential form of government.

The second petition was filed by a citizen of Islamabad, Dr Sadiq Ali.

The third petition was filed by renowned lawyer Sahibzada Ahmed Raza Khan Qasuri. He had also sought a referendum for establishing a presidential form of government.

Earlier in September, the registrar's office had objected that the petitioners had not pointed out the question of public importance in this case.

“The petitioner[s] did not approach any other forum available... under the law for the same relief. The petitioner[s] did not justify invoking the extraordinary jurisdiction of this court under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution,” the office noted.

Hum Awam Pakistan Youth President Chaudhry Zaheer, who recently organized rallies in favour of the Pakistan Army, said they have sought direction from the apex court to the prime minister of Pakistan to hold a referendum, as provided under Clause 6 of the Article 48 of the Constitution.

“Such a referendum is necessary to determine whether the people of Pakistan – for their welfare and wellbeing – want a presidential form of government or not,” he said.

One of the petitions stated that it is apparent from the print, electronic and social media that an overwhelming majority of the people are fed up with the parliamentary form of government and want to adopt the presidential form of government.

It said currently, Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world with an estimated population of 212 million people. According to the United Nations’ observations, this population is estimated to reach 403 million by 2050.

“Pakistan has also one of the world’s largest youth populations, as 64 per cent of the Pakistanis are now under the age of 30. Pakistan is ranked as 122nd out of 190 countries in the world in the opinion of the World Health Organisation’s performance report in terms of quality and accessibility of health care."

 The petition said this growing population will put catastrophic pressures on resources, leaving tens of millions of people jobless. This trend will further almost inevitably lead to further destabilization of Pakistan’s already fragile political system.

As of March 2020, the petition stated, the public debt of Pakistan was estimated at about Rs42.8 trillion or $256 billion, which is 98.2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), while the external debt stood at around $112 billion. Pakistan owes $5.765 billion to the International Monetary Fund.

No doubt, 25 percent of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line. At present, the average human development index (HDI) and the GDP are the lowest as compared to other South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, says the petition.

In the presidential system, the head of government is elected and is not responsible to the legislature, which cannot in normal circumstances dismiss him. Such dismissal is possible, however, in uncommon cases, often through impeachment.

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