Recommendations Of Youth Parliament Standing Committee On National Security & Foreign Affairs
Earlier this month, Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) in partnership with Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) organized the 7th Youth Parliament of Pakistan in Islamabad.
This platform brings together the most able young minds between the ages of 18-29 from across the country including AJK, GB, ICT and FATA to simulate the National Assembly of Pakistan in carrying out legislative business.
One commendable part of this exercise is the work of the Youth Parliament Standing Committees that work on contemporary national issues and present proposals to the national parliament for their real time implementation.
This year, the Standing Committee on National Security & Foreign Affairs had the envious task of working on the National Action Plan (NAP) for making recommendations for its effective implementation vis-à-vis a report that was shared with the Senate Standing Committees.
The salient features from the recommendation report are as follows:
“The Primary responsibility of a state is to protect the life, liberty and property of its citizens. On 16th December 2014, 149 innocent Pakistanis, including 132 school children were killed. This national tragedy led the civil-military leadership to join hands for a decisive response in the shape of a National Action Plan (NAP) that envisages twenty (20) points for addressing the scourge of terrorism. In the light of NAP, the 21st Constitutional Amendment was also passed to provide it with a legal cover.”
However, the following obstacles have impeded its complete implementation:
1. The civil-military trust deficit has made coordination between intelligence agencies non-existent. As a result, one key component of the plan i.e. National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) remains non-operational.
2. The coordination between the federal and provincial governments is far from ideal, especially since the passage of 18th Amendment, the provinces have been made autonomous in their security domain. However, in reality, the center continues to caste a long shadow over provincial jurisdiction i.e. Rangers/FIA interference in provincial subjects.
3. Constitutional and legislative issues continue to remain unresolved, hence providing limited cover to the law enforcement agencies. This impasse risks upsetting the balance between the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary.
4. The Provincial Apex Committees, comprising of senior civilian provincial officials, army commanders, and the ISI have been created to oversee the progress of National Action Plan. While an Apex Committee can make its assessment on an ad hoc basis, in a democratic country, there is a need for a parliamentary body to monitor and oversee its national security apparatus to ensure that the fundamental rights of the citizens are preserved. The parliament has been conspicuously missing in the oversight of NAP.
5. Reservations are rife over the setting up of military courts since similar attempts at bypassing the criminal justice system in 1997 vis-à-vis Anti-Terrorist Courts have failed miserably.
6. The lifting of the moratorium over executions has attracted international outcry since very few countries in the world still persist with death penalty owing to its dubious effectiveness of achieving natural justice.
7. Lack of serious efforts at countering the extremism ideology vis-à-vis educational reforms and organizing grass roots campaigns in light of the absence of the Local Government System in Punjab and Sindh.
8. NAP’s agenda of ending religious persecution remains elusive and is made more glaring in the light of the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Mumtaz Qadri case. There is a national mood persistent for doing away with draconian laws including article 295C of the Blasphemy Law that stipulates mandatory death sentence.
9. No serious attempt at carrying out reforms in FATA where the presence of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) black law continues to wreck havoc on the citizens through the arbitrary justice handed by the political agents vested with the powers of judge, jury and prosecution which is contrary to the fundamental rights.
10. Media censorship, which risks turning into a full scale suppression of the fundamental right to free speech as 30 seconds buffers have been initiated upon mention of any national institution.
11. Complete and utter lack of reforms in the criminal justice system thus far.
The report contains the following ten (10) recommendations to the Parliament for achieving the objectives as envisaged under NAP:
1. Criminal Justice System An over emphasis on speedier delivery can lead to the failure of the NAP to address structural weaknesses in the criminal justice system. An already low conviction rate could decline even further if the police, judiciary and prisons are not overhauled.
2. Restoring Moratorium and disbanding Military Courts at the expiry of the 2 years sunset clause.
3. Ensure that under the garb of fighting terrorism there is no arbitrary ban on Social Media as well as the Electronic Media platforms on the mere mention of any national institutions.
4. Build political consensus for education reform and public narratives against extremism by ensuring National Education Curriculum is free from biases.
5. FCR should be immediately scrapped in FATA and an amendment is made to the Article 247 of the constitution to include FATA under the jurisdiction of Pakistan’s judicial system.
6. Parliamentary body of Council of Common Interests (CCI) should be made the Apex Monitoring Body of the NAP to address the reservations of the provinces.
7. Fulfilling financial commitments of NAP by making fiscal allocations to centrally controlled bodies and organizations related to its implementation.
8. Local Government System should not be further delayed since it has a central role to play in shaping the mind sets of the masses through awareness , education campaigns and door to door outreach.
9. Long-term steps should be taken to reconcile madrassahs with the mainstream system for a universal education system in the country.
10. Balochistan Reconciliation vis-à-vis formation of a grand jirga/committee from all walks of Balochistan’s tribal / civil society for dialogue with estranged Baloch leaders and to ensure vigilance over:
- extra judicial measures,
- outstanding royalties from gas & minerals,
- Strict time frame for recovery of missing persons
The original report of the 7th Youth Parliament Pakistan’s Standing Committee on National Security & Foreign Affairs (session 4), “Pakistan’s National Action Plan (December 2014): What Is The State Of Its Implementation and Possible Proposals For Effective Implementation”, has been published by PILDAT and can be made available on request.