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> Stregthening Democracy:
   The Global Experience
 
Talk by British MP, Mr. Mohammad Sarwar
December 29, 2002
Hotel Avari, Lahore


Press Clippings
   

PILDAT arranged a talk by Mr. Mohammad Sarwar, British MP, and also a member of the PILDAT Board of Advisors here in Lahore on Sunday, December 29, 2002 under the topic of Strengthening Democracy: the Global Experience.

 
 

The participants at the talk were Mr. S. M. Zafar, renowned lawyer and chairman Board of Advisors PILDAT, Mr. Irshad Ahmed Haqqani, famous columnist and former federal minister for law and parliamentary affairs; Mr. Ata-ur-Rehman, columnist; Mr. Asadullah Ghalib, columnist; Mr. Zia Shahid, editor Khabrain; Dr. Ajmal Niazi, poet and columnist Mr. Ahsanullah Waqas, MPA, amongst other media persons and representative of civil society.

 
 

Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, the Executive Director of PILDAT, warmly welcomed Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar on behalf of PILDAT and introduced him to the participants. He praised the patriotic commitments and the philanthropic spirit of the British MP. Explaining PILDATs’ agenda he said that is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-government, independent organisation working to strengthen democracy and democratic institutions in Pakistan and that the PILDAT Legislative Capability-building Programme is aimed at strengthening the role of legislature through skills building and enhancement of the legislators. The pilot project had been launched through support from the UNDP under which PILDAT held a series of specialised workshops, seminars, lectures, courses and study tours etc.

 
 

Mr. Mohammad Sarwar strongly emphasized the need of consensus-building on strengthening democracy by political actors in Pakistan. He said that the meddling of military and intelligence agencies in the political affairs was alarming and detrimental to the spirit of democracy. He said that in the past, too, he had advised the military government to keep its role limited to as that of a referee in politics and not become a player. “Democracy is the only viable option for Pakistan,” he emphasized adding that the Muslim countries would do well to give powers to their people rather than blindly following the US policies against the interests of their own people.

 
 

Speaking of the ills of Pakistani society, Mr. Sarwar said lamented that we as Pakistanis are biggest proponents and propagandists of our nation as being corrupt. He disagreed that Pakistan was more corrupt than any other society in the world and said that Pakistanis are just as corrupt as the rest of the World. Speaking of Britain where there are lesser opportunities in the system to get corrupt, he said that if people can still get into corruption there, it says a lot about human psyche. He believed that rampant corruption in Pakistan existed due to the discretionary powers the whole of society enjoyed and if today, Pakistani rulers were to abolish this discretionary power from everyone including themselves, half the ills of the country will be taken care of. Lauding the role of PILDAT in initiating and carrying out a programme of legislative capability-building in Pakistan in order to strengthen democracy, he said that his colleagues at the British Parliament and the Department For International Development – DFID, UK wholeheartedly support PILDAT’s role in strengthening democracy as the most crucial step towards that mission is to establish the supremacy of the parliament through the active and effective role of the parliamentarians.

 
 

Mr. S. M. Zafar, the renowned lawyer and chairman PILDAT Board of Advisors, thanked Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar for his enlightening views and seconded his call for an independent judiciary as an essential for the prosperity of democracy. He also stressed upon the legislators to recognise their responsibilities and master the legislative procedures e.g. resolutions, point of order and adjournment motions etc.

 
 

Mr. Sarwar’s talk was followed by a lively question and answer session that addressed questions like strengthening of committee systems, inability of the military rulers to stay objective as well as the efforts and responsibilities of friends of Pakistan like Mr. Sarwar working outside Pakistan for the country’s interest. Mr. Sarwar stressed that establishing the supremacy of the parliament is the top most priority for legislators and that different groups should be established in parliament working for different goals such as foreign policy, defence, poverty reduction and development etc.

 
 

Mr. Irshad Ahmed Haqqani, seasoned journalist and commentator, expressed his gratitude to PILDAT and Mr. M. Sarwar for providing this wonderful learning experience. He believed that Mr. M Sarwar’s discussion was very well balanced and insightful and that it carried very valuable lessons to be learnt by all the participants.

 
 

Mohammad Sarwar is the first Pakistani who made it to the British Parliament. He joined the Labour Party in 1982, and immediately became very active in the social work. He became a member of the Glasgow City Council in 1992 and was re-elected in 1995. Chaudhary Sarwar is associated with PILDAT as an advisor.