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.
Women Legislators` Political Participation in Pakistan 2018-20
This report by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (supported by FNF Pakistan) aims to assess women legislators’ political participation in Pakistan, for the first two parliamentary years (2018-2020) of the current National & Provincial Assemblies (2018-2023) with primary focus on the functions of legislation and oversight (from all political parties). It uses qualitative and quantitative data generated through perception surveys, secondary research, focus group discussions, key informant interviews and statistical analysis of data available on Assembly websites.
Women play a vital role in Pakistan’s assemblies to promote legislative and policy framework that supports gender-equality. The study has observed that while female legislators fully participate and are committed to performing their parliamentary duties, legal and cultural factors hinder their performance and growth. Discriminatory social norms, a biased assembly system, limited research and financial support as well as limited capacity building opportunities, make it difficult for female parliamentarians to effectively perform their functions of oversight and legislation.
This study emphasizes that there is a dire need for affirmative action to boost women’s political voice and enhance their role in parliamentary affairs. While it is true that once women join the parliament, they try to understand the system and learn from experience, it is also true that formal training and support from political parties and government organizations is required to enhance their participation and performance in legislative work.
Cultural Federalism: Embracing Unity in Diversity in Pakistan (Eng)
Pakistan is an incredibly diverse country. This holds true
for its geographical as well as its socio-cultural, political,
economic and historic fabric. The Pakistani flag pays
tribute to this diversity: the white elements acknowledge
the existence and contribution of minorities to the state
of Pakistan. Pakistan’s founding father M.A. Jinnah
propagated the vision of “a homestead for Muslims, but
not a Muslim state”. However, while the founding narrative
and official state symbols such as the national flag acknowledge the diversity
of the people, who live on Pakistani soil, historical developments and realities
on the ground often tell a different story. While Pakistanis live their different
customs and traditions every day, this is not appreciated publically or
politically. Why is the overwhelming diversity of Pakistani society a “denied
reality”? How can the heterogeneity of Pakistan be turned into an asset, rather
than being perceived as a threat and source of conflict?
FNF Pakistan discussed this topic in a series of web panels with experts from
academia, politics, public administration and civil society. Each web panel
dealt with a specific topic related to the diversity issue in Pakistan based on a
paper written by Jami Chandio, touching upon the political and constitutional
framework, the socio-cultural mosaic, ethnic and linguistic pluralism, religious
diversity and diversity as a conflict resolution mechanism.
While these debates and the main statements of our keynote speakers can
still be accessed on social media (check out the FNF Pakistan facebook
page!), this discussion deserves a deeper understanding and further
attention, as “diversity” and how Pakistan manages its diversity will be a
crucial factor for the future development of this country. This is why we
have decided to publish the workshop papers of our “Unity in Diversity” web
panel series in book form and add some relevant information of the latest
scientific debate about diversity and conflict resolution in heterogeneous
As “diversity” is a concept, which can be perfectly expressed through art, the reknown cartoonist Akhtar Shah participated in every panel discussion sketching the main messages of the panellists in rapid live drawings. Some selected pieces of his work illustrate this publication, because they shed a different perspective on this topic. After all, it is important to keep in mind that the discussion about diversity in Pakistan is not a theoretical debate about legal or administrative concepts, but a question of how to give adequate space to the people of Pakistan to live and develop their very own identities in the best possible way and for the benefit of society as a whole.
Rights, Duties, and Powers: Under Pakistan’s Constitutional Framework
Over seven decades of the country’s history, and over almost five decades of the 1973 Constitution’s, the balance has mostly remained in favor of the first school of thought, manifesting itself either through direct military rule or through a political class groomed by the associated authoritarian mindset. Another manifestation of this has been the raft of amendments introduced by Generals Zia and Musharraf upon their restorations of the 1973 Constitution in 1985 and 2002 respectively, thereby transplanting overwhelming presidential powers into the realm of its parliamentary character. This balance has been tipped somewhat to the other side by the 18th Constitutional Amendment, as it has restored the parliamentary system in full, and has devolved a range of powers to the provinces. But nearly thirteen years down the road, calls for reconsidering certain of the powers so devolved, and for giving a presidential form of government to Pakistan, are intensifying.
As posited by the 1973 Constitution at the very outset, speeding up the attainment of a robust democracy, acceptable to all shades of opinion, is the best way to overcome the aforesaid strain and tension – while sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust,
the State must exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people.
So it is best to let the people genuinely choose their representatives, let them complete their terms, and let them decide what scheme works best for Pakistan. It might also be in order for Pakistan to undergo further and more authentic electoral reforms so that the election process is deemed transparent, and accusations of electoral fraud become minimal. Last but not least,
political parties themselves need to adopt democracy and promote democratic values within their ranks, instead of indulging in dynastic rule or ganging up with unelected forces for measly gains.