My Experience as Member of PILDAT Youth Parliament Pakistan
As a member of PILDAT’s (Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency) 7th Youth Parliament Pakistan, I had a great experience in terms of not only learning democratic and legislative processes and being exposed to policy-making at a national level, but also by playing my part in making a small contribution towards policy-making along with brilliant minds from all over the country. The significance of this session to the law is that the ideas of the youth from different regions are brought together and provided a platform to be heard. All Youth Parliamentarians can be seen as legislators in the making. I am of the firm belief that if laws are made by people who are aware of the dynamics of all regions of Pakistan and who are competent and educated, then a lot of our problems can be resolved. Generally during all the sessions of Youth Parliament, the discussions, questions and answers between members and experts, and between members themselves, are invaluable. The resolutions or bills that are passed, as well as the committee reports, are provided a strong backing through which they may be forwarded to the authorities concerned. Our Standing Committee on Governance prepared a report on the best international models for measuring good governance. Before dwelling further upon the legal aspects discussed in our report, I would like to briefly mention my experience as a Youth Parliamentarian in the following paragraphs.
As a Member of Youth Parliament, I discovered that law-making is not a walk in the park and I feel that I myself have now become more sympathetic towards our legislators. You have to win the support of the majority of people to have your ideas approved and this kind of canvassing and lobbying is an art in itself. You need to come up with ideas based on utilitarian principles that will benefit the public and would address major as well as minor causes of concern. The Parliament also has to stay within its legislative domain and should not encroach upon the powers of the judiciary or the executive. Neither can it shift its responsibilities to the other organs of the state. The drafting of laws in a readable, understandable, legal and accessible manner is equally important after having thorough meaningful discussions with all stakeholders and policymakers. A lot of time in Parliament can also go to waste due to ‘arguments just for the sake of argument’ where there may be some issues which would require unanimous consensus rather than a difference of opinion.
I believe that every citizen should consider himself/ herself a law-maker. Everyone has ideas in their minds which need to be put forward to your respective representatives. You do not vote for them to just gain perks during their victory celebrations. Their primary job is to make laws and all other duties would follow subsequently. It should not be up to the party leaders only to decide upon the laws of Pakistan or any amendments to them. The public should have a greater say in the matters since democracy is not only representative but participatory also.
The Members of Youth Parliament had thorough discussions on laws pertaining to terrorism, madrassa reforms, education, finance, electoral reforms, foreign affairs, empowerment of women and youth in the assemblies and local governments, rights and constitutional status for Gilgit-Baltistan & Kashmir and stricter laws regarding social justice, among various other topics.
In my Committee’s report on Governance, international models that have been discussed include the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific Model; Worldwide Governance Index (WGI); Bertelsmann Transformation Index; World Governance Assessment (WGA) and the PILDAT Governance Index. These models focus on legal, political, economic and social indicators. The major legal indicators are democracy, participation and rule of law; provision of fundamental rights; accountability; transparency; independence of judiciary; anti-corruption laws and environmental laws among others. Some models like WGI and WGA have widened the scope of fundamental rights and have referred to the rights of the most vulnerable groups in the society, and their protection, as a major indicator of good governance. Rule of law is not possible if laws are not applied in the same way to the powerful and the destitute. The models refer to transparency and disclosure of information which has also become a fundamental right under Article 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, but the question arises as to what benefit would the provision of information have unless people are educated enough to understand the dynamics? If you give someone a piece of information he or she is not able comprehend, then how would that ensure transparency ultimately? Moreover, speedy justice is also an important indicator of good governance and the independence of judiciary is important to ensure justice and to counter any threats to the lives of these judges. In his farewell speech, the outgoing Chief Justice, Mr. Jawad S. Khawaja expressed disappointment over the fact that it takes on average about 25 years for a matter to be decided from court of first instance all the way to the Supreme Court. He stressed upon the importance of faith and the truth for ensuring justice without fear.
In our Committee’s recommendations to the government, policymakers and parliamentarians, the legal issues we agreed upon included enhancing the efficiency of the Council of Common Interests and National Finance Commission (NFC) to ensure that disputes between Provinces are resolved efficiently and fairly. The use of technology in registering FIRs and the law regarding the Right to Information were also recommended in light of the commendable laws in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and a recent Supreme Court Judgment emphasizing the same. Empowerment of the Ombudsperson was also recommended by our Committee.
It should be noted that many aspects of good governance are already covered within our Constitution. However, stricter laws are needed in order to ensure their effectiveness. For instance, most of the aspects pertaining to social justice are part of the principles of policy rather than covered under the umbrella of fundamental rights in our Constitution. So their enforcement is always contentious and debatable. These aspects not only require laws that are efficiently drafted but that are also strictly implemented. Social justice was the reason for the success of the State of Madinah or the era of Hazrat Umar (RA). By upholding social justice we can also be well on our way towards ensuring and achieving good governance in Pakistan.
References used in the Governance Committee’s Report:
The original report of the 7th Youth Parliament Pakistan’s Standing Committee on Governance (session 3), titled “What Are The Best International Models For Measuring Quality Of Governance and Why” has been published by PILDAT and can be made available on request.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which he might be associated.