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> PILDAT kicks off Assessment of the Quality of Democracy in 2011 through a National Workshop
   
 

December 29, 2011
Islamabad


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Islamabad, December 29; PILDAT began its assessment of the quality of democracy in Pakistan in year 2011 through facilitating a national dialogue here today. PILDAT is using an international framework for the assessment of the Quality of Democracy that has been developed by International IDEA

 
 

The workshop helped extract the opinions of a cross-section of society on the performance of democracy in 2011 including MPs, Academics, Media and citizens groups. The Democracy Assessment Group convened by PILDAT led the National Workshop.

 
 

At the beginning of the workshop, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director PILDAT, said that PILDAT has been assessing the quality of Democracy in Pakistan and has earlier prepared a Report on Mid-Term Assessment of the Quality of Democracy in Pakistan in September 2010.

 
 

Mr. Javed Jabbar, who coordinated the discussion at the Workshop, said Quality of Democracy in September 2010 had received a score of 45%. The scores for 2011 will ensue after the completion of the report in January 2012. In order to kick-off the discussion, he shared at the Workshop what he termed a collective exercise by the Democracy Assessment Group to review Democracy in 2011. The list included positive aspects of quality of democracy in 2011 as public support for democracy, emergence of PTI as a 3rd force, demonstration of wider public interest and participation of youth in politics, formation of full-time Election Commission by bipartisan Committee, Electoral Reforms, independence of media and independence of Supreme Court. The negative aspects, in views of the Group, are poor quality of Governance, corruption, deterioration of Civil-Military relations, poor quality of leadership, hereditary politics, weak Parliamentary performance, weak Foreign Policy and deteriorating public service.

 
 

Mr. Qamar Zaman Kaira, Information Secretary PPPP and former Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, said that democracy does not come with passing laws. When we talk of democracy we should have some context in mind especially our context. Government, Parliament and Political Parties are not the only thing forming a democracy. The issues of federal-province relations are centuries old. We have historically tried to govern the country with a centrist approach. The Constitution of 1973 was consensus oriented. Martial laws afterwards destroyed the federation and political parties. This incumbent Parliament has brought the 18th Amendment which has at least defined the federation again. We have at least tried to define the federal-province relations. We cannot give the same performance that the democracy in Britain because they have a different history. Media is not completely independent, its independence remains confined due to its commercial interests. As far as hereditary politics is concerned it will not be done away with until political parties are allowed to evolve.

 
 

Some of the key views expressed by participants are listed below.

 
 

S. A. Iqbal Qadri, Member National Assembly from MQM, said if one is sitting inside the Government there he takes a different perspective towards issues. The work of the Government suffers from the fact that Democracy has not evolved properly and corruption has been institutionalized over the years. The society as a whole has not fought corruption and not made an education policy. We have spent very low amounts on both health and education in our GDP. If we had spent more over these aspects things would have been better.

 
 

Mr. Javed Hafeez, former Ambassador, said that a weak foreign policy will be a reflection of internal policy. We should also look at who contributes to the foreign policy which is not just foreign office. There are other agencies that have a lot of weight in this policy. As far as the deterioration of public services is concerned they are a part of bad governance. There is a recent report from the Economic Intelligence Unitís Democracy Index in which Pakistan is ranked 105 & Bhutan is 104. This is how the outside world perceives democracy in Pakistan.

 
 

Mr. Farhat Khan, MNA, said that people who represent the population in the Parliament are not true representatives. Farmers are represented by fuedals and labour is represented by industrialists. The MQM is only 7% in the Assembly but it introduced the bill of Land Reforms and De-weaponization but we did not find enough people to support it. We criticize the Government despite being in the government. MQMís MNAs as have performed better relatively. For economy we should improve governance in public sector companies.

Senator Saeeda Iqbal of the PPPP said that this year has been a very important year and many bills have been passed in the Parliament. If democracy continues, parliamentary performance will improve as well. Politicians are only one section of the society and everyone will have to take responsibility such as media and civil-society. If democracy is strengthened and evolves without fear of intervention it will create a sense of security which will improve economy, parliamentary performance and other things and citizens as a whole will have to take responsibility as a whole. The Parliament is only as good as the people.

Lt. General (Retd.) Asad Durrani, intelligence commentator, said that there are no clear positives or negatives in our country. Foreign policy has improved in this year compared to the last year. Civil-Military relations are also a positive and the memo issue is not a clash of institutions if one looks at past relations between the civilian government and military.

Dr. Mohammed Waseem, Academic, said that the first and foremost problem of Pakistan is terrorism. It has raised the expenditure on security. The state has decided to invest in security as much as possible but not eliminate the source of terrorism. The state relies on non-state militant actors for foreign policy objectives. There are pro-Taliban groups which have killed people but the state backs them. There is no organized movement against terrorism. There is a total foreign policy collapse. There is no trust over Pakistan in the global community. There is constant interference in matters of executive both from judiciary and military. Matters are going out of representativesí control because of hyper-visibility of military. The Parliament has no control over policy and has no security of tenure.

Brigadier (Retd.) Shaukar Qadir, former President Islamabad Policy Research Institute, said that we have not seen true democracy in the country. We have had democratically elected governments but not true democracy. I think foreign policy has improved in these years. I think we have finally formulated a foreign policy.

Mr. Abdul Qadir, representing Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, said that local governments is an important tier of democracy but it is a pity that provinces are not willing to establish Local Governments. Public support of democracy is not a reflection of quality of democracy but support of a system. There are particular interest that do not want us to move from a security state to welfare/development state.

Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo, Vice-President NP, said that democracy has not performed due to the fact that Pakistan is a security state. It is a useless expectation. Most of our problems are a reflection of our security paradigm.

Wazir Ahmed Jogezai, former Deputy Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan, said that Balochistan is a military garrison. The Parliament is a rubberstamp.

Iftikhar Ahmad, Senior Journalist, said that despite poor governance and corruption why is there support for democracy in the public. This is because democracy is the only system in which people are heard. The politicians should control corruption otherwise there is a threat to democracy. Political Parties should come forward and establish local governments. There is also a need to establish a comprehensive Accountability Law. Political parties should not fear local governments.

Senator Humayun Khan Mandokhel, Balochistan, said that poor quality of leadership is due to hereditary politics. There has never been good quality of leadership. There is no democracy within political parties which is a hurdle in the way of democracy.

Mr. Mujib ur Rehman Shami, Editor in Chief Daily Pakistan, said that politicians should take some responsibility as far democracy is concerned. The opposition has backed every martial law. Even today the memo issue has been taken to the Supreme Court by the opposition despite it being part of the Parliament itself.

Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Moinuddin Haider, former Governor Sindh, said that many countries do not have democracy but they are progressing as far as economy is concerned. If we do not have good governance democracy will be weakened.

Mr. Cyril Almieda, Assistant Editor, Dawn, said that politicians should deliver because there are extra-constitutional ways which very powerful forces will adopt.

Members of the Democracy Assessment Group who joined the workshop included Mr. Cyril Almieda, Assistant Editor, Dawn, Mr. Iftikhar Ahmad, Senior Journalist, Mr. Illahi Buksh Soomro, Former Speaker, National Assembly of Pakistan, Mr. Javed Jabbar, former Minister for Information, Mr. Mohammad Waseem, Academician, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Moinuddin Haider, Former Federal Minister for Interior; former Governor Sindh, Mr. Mujib ur Rehman Shami, Editor in Chief Daily Pakistan, Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo, Vice-president NP, Sardar Khalid Ibrahim, Advocate, Mr. Wazir Ahmed Jogezai, former Deputy Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director and Ms. Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director of PILDAT.

This National Workshop has been organised under the project titled Assessment of the Quality of Democracy in Pakistan using IIDEA Framework supported by Foundation for the Future.