Accessible MPs, candid answers, mutual exchange
Peace cannot exist without justice, justice cannot exist without fairness, fairness cannot exist without development, development cannot exist without democracy, democracy cannot exist without respect for the identity and worth of cultures and peoples.
In Pakistan, neither newly elected parliamentarians have full knowledge about parliamentary dialogues and procedures nor the civil society, having seldom approach and access/right to information. A very few organizations and institutes are providing political and democratic education. Recently I got a chance to participate in a Virtual International Program (VIP) organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s Country Office in Pakistan and the International Academy for Leadership (IAF) International Visiting Programs in Potsdam. When Covid19 almost shook the world and confined people to their homes, Ms. Birgit Lamm and the IAF colleagues in Potsdam brought us a chance to gather some important learnings.
It was a weeklong Seminar containing almost all political, parliamentarian work, rules, and procedures. During this program we got a chance to learn from German parliamentarians, experts in communication and research institutes. From Pakistan side many members from Provincial assemblies, civil society representatives and journalists participated. To my pleasant surprise, all participants were very regular and on time in this week long Seminar, however, in hindsight it was the engaging and democratic way the online sessions were conducted which kept participants looking forward to the next day sessions.
Some highlights from the program:
- The discussion about a disciplinary political practice, opportunities for new parliamentarians or solid and strategic rules of rebranding old political parties and their rise were the segments which really kept us fully invested in the seminar.
- “Best use of Social Media is to brand and strategize the feelings connecting with the ambition of the world” said by Nick Clelland a strategic communication expert, member of the Democratic Alliance of South Africa in his presentation.
- Meeting a vibrantly talented seasoned lady politician from Germany, Ms. Angela Freimuth, who is vice president of the parliament in North Rhine-Westphalia and also FDP spokeswoman for science and research. Her positively strong participation in German politics inspired all of Pakistani participants in general and Pakistani female parliamentarians in particular. She threw light on the change and challenges for parliamentarians in Germany.
- In this seminar we learnt about the German Democratic political system. Dr. Danny Schindler who is expert from Institute of Parliamentary Research (IParl) called it a “Chancellor Democracy” which made his subject more insightful. Pakistani participants were eager to know more about it and desired to practice it in our country as well.
- Dr. Schindler explained how 35% of the Parliamentarians in the German Bundestag are women and are spearheading very important positions in legislation work. He elaborated how Germany provides them trainings and their political parties and supports them during election campaigns. Accountability is at its best and if some Parliamentarians are charged for malpractices, he or she is trialed according to the law. In my opinion, such cases of malpractice are rarely found in Germany. In Pakistan I have seen a strange system of accountability of parliamentarians for their misconduct or malpractices. In our accountability system, accused is put behind the bars for years before court convicts them. First they are accused, sent to jail, then being trialed. Meanwhile they may clear themselves from charges being imprisoned in jail. No opportunity of a fair trial is provided before conviction by court as criminal or corrupt parliamentarians. Sometimes, the accused politicians are kept in prison on plea of investigations for years and then released due to lack of evidence. This practice is totally against the spirit of justice.
- The most interesting ingredient of this VIP were the interactive sessions after every presentation when we had very healthy interaction. Everyone was given the chance to ask questions from experts. Ms. Birgit Lamm and Ms. Kristin Jäger moderated all sessions very democratically. I got answers to my questions to the best of my satisfaction and understanding. Speakers were really generous enough to explain in depth.
- We were also taught about Parliamentary ”protocols and procedures” in the light of German parliamentary system which helps and encourages young politicians to take part in policy making for not only within the party but in legislations too. In Pakistan our political system does not encourage young leaders to be politician which needs to be changed and revised for a progressive country. Pakistan needs to strengthen its young leadership in Parliament.
A week full of learning
Undoubtedly, it was a week filled with great learning and experiencing how German Parliamentary practices work and make Germany a country with strong and democratic discipline by observing all democratic and political rights.
Every year some Parliamentarians - new or seasoned - are being selected for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s International Academy for Leadership for training workshop on different topics, which is quite encouraging for our parliamentarians to learn more about German parliamentary system. I wish they practiced it in Pakistan too.
I being Pakistani journalist, am quite well conversant about the Pakistani Parliamentary system, roles of politicians, rules, practices and procedures. After the VIP sessions felt, that I have a much better appreciation of the comparison between both the parliamentary systems of Pakistan and Germany now. I congratulate Ms. Birgit Lamm and colleagues from the IAF International Visiting Programs for the successful conduct of this seminar and am highly thankful for giving me this opportunity to be part of it. I shall be looking forward for another opportunity to learn more from the teams of FNF Pakistan and the IAF Potsdam.