A week ago, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe was dismissed by President Maithripala Sirisena and the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed as the Prime Minister. This appeared ironic as President Sirisena was allied with Ranil Wickremsinghe, and President Sirisena was elected for his strong anti-Rajapaksa stance. Rajapaksa and Sirisena were once from the same party, United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) which split into two factions in 2015. The turnaround of Sirisena and Rajapaksa from rivals to allies reminds us of a Urdu couplet of Bashir Badr who said “dushmani jam kar karo lekin ye gunjaish rahe jab kabhi hum dost ho jaen to sharminda na hon” ( bear your enmity, but ensure that you don’t become ashamed when we become friends again.) Sri Lanka’s Prime Ministership remains disputed between Rajapaksa and Wickremsinghe both claiming to be the Prime Minister however, according to the website of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister’s office it shows a large image of the situation very much like the Chinese proverb ” One mountain cannot have two lions “, thus a tussle would have to be fought between Rajapaksa and Wickremsinghe. The political future of Wickremsinghe will ultimately be decided through a floor test that will be played out in Sri Lanka’s 225 seater unicameral parliament on November 5. Sirisena´s faction of the UNFA holds 33 seats while Rajapaksa´s faction has 62 seats. Ranil Wickremesinghe, United Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) has 106 seats, the single largest party in parliament. There are other smaller parties as well such as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) with 16 seats, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) 6 seats, while the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress both have one seat each. The magic number here is 113. Ranil Wickremesinghe party is 7 seats short of a simple majority on it own. As Sirisena has called off the coalition with Wickremsinghe his government is bound to fall however, given the change in political climate Wickremsinghe deserves a fair chance to re-negotiate an alliance with the other smaller parties to form a new coalition government. According to Sri Lanka´s constitution: “The President shall appoint the Prime Minister a Member of Parliament, who, in the President’s opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament.” Such wording of the constitution provokes Sirisena to think his ‘opinion’ is the law of the land. Wickremsinghe has indicated that he would resign if he fails to prove his majority in parliament. The combined factions of Rajapaksa and Sirisena´s UPFA will yield 95 seats. In this case, the TNA which is known to be pro-Tamil Tigers (LTTE) and sympathetic of human rights violations committed during the Sri Lankan civil war will play the role of a kingmaker. They supported Sirisena´s Presidency because of his anti-Rajapaksa positioning, however, this has changed in recent days. Thus, Ranil Wickremsinghe will stand a chance as the anti-Rajapaksa bulwark. When Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena removed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe the very first thing that occurred in my mind was gone are the days where Presidents could dismiss Prime Ministers in Pakistan. If one looks at Sri Lanka and Pakistan despite their many differences there are parallels that can be drawn. Unlike Pakistan, Sri Lanka is a semi-presidential republic it´s president is both head of state and head of cabinet. The Sri Lankan President is also directly elected through universal suffrage while Pakistan´s President is appointed through a parliamentary process similar to India. When Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena removed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe, the very first thing that occurred to me was, gone are the days when Presidents could dismiss Prime Ministers in Pakistan. If one looks at Sri Lanka and Pakistan, despite their many differences there are parallels that can be drawn “There shall be a Cabinet of Ministers, with the Prime Minister at its head, to aid and advise the President in the exercise of his functions.”(Pakistan’s Constitution) “The President shall be a member of the Cabinet of Ministers and shall be the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers” (Sri Lanka’s constitution). Before the 18th constitutional amendment was passed in Pakistan during the Presidency of Asif Ali Zardari, Presidents in Pakistan could unilaterally dismiss a Prime Minister or dissolve the national assembly of Pakistan. President Sirisena thinks that what he has done is in absolute accordance with the constitution of Sri Lanka though political scientist and constitution experts may have differing opinions. In 2015, Sri Lanka passed the 19th constitutional amendment in parliament with 215 out of 225 votes. This curtailed the President´s power to dismiss a Prime Minister unless he loses the confidence of parliament. Sirisena´s main justification for the Prime Minister´s dismissal is that Wickremsinghe has lost the confidence of parliament in the President´s opinion. The Key factor here is the confidence of parliament thus Sirisena is well aware that he does not possess unilateral powers to send off the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka´s 19th constitutional amendment can be viewed as an equivalence of Pakistan´s 18th amendment. President Sirisena could be placed on par with former Pakistani President Zardari as both these South Asian Presidents have willingly relinquished powers of their own office and empowered the legislature. The question that must be asked at this juncture is why then can Prime Ministers be dismissed in Sri Lanka but not in Pakistan. In Pakistan’s political history, the practice of the office of the Head of State being used to dismiss Prime Ministers and parliaments traces back to the formative years of Pakistan. Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad would forever be remembered for initiating the practice of dismissing Prime Ministers in Pakistan when he fired Khawaja Nazimuddin in 1953. This power of the Governor-General to fire the Prime Minister was derived from the Government of India Act,1935 which made Khawaja Nazimuddin the first among a long list of victims to be decapitated. Parliamentarians in Pakistan were indeed fast to realise the hatchet possessed by the Governor-General and acted to curb his powers though they never succeeded until the era of Zardari’s presidency . This led to end of Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Bogra’s government when the entire constituent assembly of dissolved by Ghulam Muhammad. The speaker of the Constituent Assembly Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan objecting to the high handedness of the Governor-General contested the legality of the Assembly’s dissolution in the Sindh High court and won his case only to be overruled in the Supreme court of Pakistan. The landmark case “Federation of Pakistan v Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan” established the “Doctrine of Necessity” which provided the justification for future military coups in Pakistan. Pakistan’s first President Iskandar Ali Mirza was a record setter of firing five Prime Ministers in a row ( Muhammad Ali Bogra, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, I.I Chundrigar and Feroz Khan Noon). He was deposed and exiled to England after the Coup d’état in 1958 by General Ayub Khan. The irreversible damage that Ghulam Muhammad and Iskandar Mirza had inflicted upon the development of democracy in Pakistan still exist even till the present day. As articulated by Mark Anthony, in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.” In more recent times Nawaz Shariff and Benazir Bhutto were dismissed multiple times by Presidents of Pakistan in the 1990s thus leading to the 1999 military Coup d’état by the then Army Chief Pervez Musharraf. Sri Lanka has a lot to learn from the experience of Pakistan in its transition to democracy and process of realisation that parliamentary democracy is the only way to govern and manage the complexities that exist in multi-ethnic Pakistan. If one looks at Pakistan’s political history it can be observed that the country has gone through painful experimentations with statecraft and democracy. Sri Lanka has been fortunate enough not to travel that alley and if it does not want to do so then there are lessons it should draw from Pakistan. In order to prevent any power struggles between the President and Prime Minister, Sri Lanka needs to improve its constitution to ensure the establishment of Parliamentary democracy. Ambiguous wordings and complexities in the constitution would have to be amended by future governments in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka should also reconsider if it wants to maintain the current political structure of a semi-presidential republic. If there is anything to learn from Pakistan it would be that this semi-presidential system is far too dangerous for South Asia. Sri Lanka should adopt a full fledge parliamentary democratic model whereby the president acts as a ceremonial head of state and the elected Prime Minister would be the undisputed chief executive. Sri Lanka has endured a long quarter-century civil war which ended a decade ago. It must exercise wisdom and political prudence in choosing the path ahead. Sri Lanka has the highest Human Development Index (HDI) value in South Asia at 0.770. In 1990, Singapore had a HDI value of 0.718 today its HDI value is at 0.932. Sri Lanka has every reason and potential to aspire for similar advancements in human development as experienced by Singapore. Sri Lanka could have been the Singapore of South Asia however, it was unfortunate to be caught in civil war and ethnic conflict while there was strong political stability, peace and racial harmony in Singapore thus fostering favourable conditions for rapid progress and prosperity. The current political crisis that Sri Lanka has got into is time for its ruling elite to think if it wants to go through political turmoil like Pakistan has gone through in the past or sought out its domestic politics, tighten parliamentary democracy in its constitution and progress like Singapore. If Sri Lanka choses the former option it will become a showcase for the world to remember what old Pakistan was like despite Sri Lanka having such high levels of human development. It would be a great waste if the power games played by politicians in Sri Lanka just like in other South Asian countries prevents the beautiful Island State from achieving its full potential. The writer is an expert analyst on Pakistan’s Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy. He is currently a postgraduate student at the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, Germany. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Published in Daily Times, November 3rd 2018.