ISLAMABAD:(APS)November 24,2016-Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani has said that in Pakistan, democracy is facing multiple challenges including the challenge of the civil- military relationship, parliament and executive relationship, parliament and judiciary relationship and the challenge of balance between the two houses. He was addressing a hot topic seminar titled, “Democracies in transition, and the challenges they face” in Islamabad which was organised as a joint venture of the Senate of Pakistan and Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA). He said that the learning from the experiences of the other democracies and parliaments is important for Pakistan as we are the democracy in transition and also because we started our journey of transition from dictatorship to democracy. It is also important to tell the people that parliament is no more debating club and the place of sitting for the politicians rather the initiatives being taken and the efforts of the Senate of Pakistan to legislate on the rights of the federating units and marginalised segments speak volume of the change being taken place. While talking about the challenge of the civil-military relationship he said it is of utmost importance to deliberate and debate on this account as we are in a transition phase to move from dictatorship to democracy and the institutions have vested interests which are not only political but also economic. As it is difficult to leave the past for an individual, it is also hard for the institutions to accept the dictates of the constitutional rule and civilian supremacy. The ruling elite have developed the tendency that when one talk about the political institutions and rule of law, it is taken as against the armed forces. He said that through a planned propaganda since inception of the country in 1947, role of the parliament and politicians is diminished and that of dictators is glorified. The politicians are termed as inefficient, corrupt and incapable to run the country. He said that politicians are not against armed forces rather there is defined role for the all the institutions in the constitution of 1973 but unfortunately this constitution is either abrogated or held in abeyance when dictators take over. But the people were and are committed for the rule of law. They rose every time they were beaten-up during the dictatorships and they will rise again as the sun rises every morning. He said the other challenge is that the existing balance of power between the two houses of the Parliament is against the spirit of the 1973 constitution and very purpose for which the upper house was created to represent the federating units. He suggested that a formula needs to be worked out for equal strength of the both house during the joint setting of the Parliament as the 372 member National Assembly out number the Senate having only 104 members representing the rights of the Federation and federating units. The spirit and purpose of the creation of the Senate was the equal representation of the provinces.
He reiterated that worst form of democracy is better than dictatorship and that democracy is not a switch of light that one switched it off and switched it on at will rather it is a continues process. Corruption is prevalent in the society but every politician is not corrupt. He said that as all the institutions have their own system of accountability, the politicians too should be held accountable only by the parliament and not by special courts. No one is above the system but there should be one set of rules for every one in the society. He emphasized that “no one is sacred cow and above the law”. He said that the executive have the tendency to ride rough the parliament and now time has come that the parliament should stand out to protect its powers.
CPA Secretary General Akbar Khan said the forum of CPA is an excellent platform to explore and identify strategies to further sustain positive trajectory by entrenching parliamentary democracy not only for Pakistan and the Asia region, but also to share the outcomes more widely within the Commonwealth of Nations who from time to time also face “interruptions’ and ‘ruptures’ in their countries’ journey to democratic governance. He said that challenges to democracy can arise in both established and stable democracies and states transitioning towards democracy. He said that Parliaments provide a platform for citizens to have a voice in the national policy debate and formation, as well as managing and societal conflicts through discussion and dialogue.
Leader of the House Senator Raja Muhammad Zafar ul Haq commended the CPA for playing a key role in strengthening parliaments around the world. The CPA has also been a consistent and dependable partner in democratic strengthening of Pakistan.
He said that there are innumerable challenges and obstacles and the transition is never abrupt but gradual. “Democracy requires careful nurturing by delicately adhering to democratic principles”. Raja Muhammad Zafar ul Haq said that Pakistan faced immense challenges and continue to do so and our biggest obstacle has been an unstable democratic transition, marred by repeated military intervention. He said the dark years have passed and Pakistan has entered into an era of democratic stability as we head towards the third successive democratic transition in 2018. He stated that the present democratic government is pursuing the cause of institutional harmony for smooth functioning of state affairs and country’s solidarity. He urged the international community and organizations like the CPA to help Pakistan further strengthen parliamentary and democratic institutions, particularly through sharing best practices, knowledge, technological ventures, capacity building and skill enhancement.
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan said that a healthy democracy is the one where problems are addressed through sober debate, tolerance, consensus and reconciliation. He said that marginalized, provinces, minorities, ethnicities and most important women and youth must be brought into the national mainstream in order to make headway on road to prosperity. He emphasized that access to justice and equality before law must be on top priority of transitioning democracies. “Without justice there can be not democracy. Leader of the Opposition remarked that unfortunately, the developed world has historically tried to impose its version of democracy on the rest of the developing countries, expecting success with their one size strategy in any social environment. “We are different people with a different history, culture, religion, geography, demography” he went on to say.
Secretary Senate Amjed Pervez Malik in his welcome address said that Pakistan itself present an interesting and somewhat inspiring case study being a country that has and successfully continues to struggle from undemocratic system to fully functional democracy with a vibrant Parliament and Judiciary, independent media and proactive civil society. He said that geo-political circumstances and reality show that democratic transitions have faced and will continue to face challenges and struggles in their attempt to bring about the creation of liberal democracy, not only in our country or part of the world but also in the so called developed democracies. “We have lately taken a number of initiatives and reforms to make Senate transparent, accessible and connected to the people”. He said that the Senate is laying foundation of a new discourse and culture to promote and encourage intellectual query and thought process by inviting academia, civil society, media, scholars and experts to share their ideas and views on issues of domestic and international relevance. “As per the vision of Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani and the Secretariat administration’s strategic reformative plan, we are proactively undertaking improvement and development in all areas of parliamentary business and support as per international benchmarks”, he informed.