“Tabdeeli” till now connoted “change” – change from corruption to transparency, from failure of governance to success of governance, from the rule of chosen ones in power to rule of law. But in the recent past, the word has begun implying major changes that may potentially change the very face of how the Islamic Republic of Pakistan functions.
Search for the hashtag #PresidentialSystem and thousands of social media shares will pop up. Try and google “18th Amendment” and impending volte-face seems to be the hottest topic, online and off. There are theories, and then there are conspiracy theories. Pakistan, meanwhile, seems to be sitting on a ticking time bomb, waiting for “Change”, all owing to political hearsay.
Everyone seems so sure of what is going to happen, but no one knows where these whispers are originating from. Perhaps from Pakistan’s sugar daddies belonging to echelons of power talking in upper tier clubs over rounds of hors d’oeuvres and Cuban cigars. The words uttered by them may have been taken as the gospel truth by overhearers, or over-zealous political analysts and media persons may have taken on the mantle of “sources” and begun tweeting about it or taking polls on it. Trust Pakistan’s penchant for fake news.
The news has spread. And everyone seems sure that Islamic Presidential System is deemed to happen, whether they are for it or against it. But is Imran Khan ready to go through the grueling processes that would be required to actually become the President? The legislation, the referendum, getting a two-thirds majority – is this all even doable?
Overlapping with the issue of the Presidential System is the question of the 18th Amendment which would have to be rolled back if, and that is a big if, the Presidential System is to move past tweets and table talk and become a reality.
Since 2010, with the advent of the 18th Amendment, Pakistan’s Parliamentary System is showing, if nothing else, the benefit that elected governments have been able to complete their term. Getting rid of the 18th Amendment may ensure more power to the President and more transparency with the federal government at the helm of decision-making, but it will have the side-effect of perpetuating a sense of victimhood and being wronged, particularly in Sindh, where the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leadership will use it for political traction to the maximum.
But are all conspiracy theories just conspiracy theories? Does the political grapevine actually have some substance as the fuel of the rumours it is churning out? The stepping down of one of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) key figures, Asad Umar, from the position of Finance Minister on April 18th, has rattled the political equilibrium. More so because the tittle-tattle seems to have some truth to it. With more reshuffling expected in Khan’s cabinet, one cannot any more ignore political speculations, even if one does not believe them all.
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Whoever is adding fuel to the gossip fire by leaking out snippets of news that are meant to stay under cover is achieving the possible purpose — that an air of uncertainty and a feeling of political instability should linger in the air. What will happen next, and how shall it affect the average Pakistani? The questions are pertinent. Meanwhile, conspiracy theories keep surfacing. And Pakistan waits with baited breath.