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Briefing Session for Parliamentarians
May 17, 2004
Hotel Marriott, Islamabad

   

MNAs and Senators along with former Speakers National Assembly, stressed on the importance and efficacy of Parliamentary Committees in Pakistan at a Briefing Session for parliamentarians on “Effective Committee System”, organised by Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency – PILDAT, on 17th May at Hotel Marriott, Islamabad. The Session was heavily attended by 65 MNAs and Senators – including 9 Chairpersons of present committees, as well as by the officers from National Assembly and Senate Secretariats.

 
 

Speaking at the occasion, Former Speakers National Assembly, Syed Fakhr Imam, Gohar Ayub, Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani and Illahi Bukhsh Soomro, asserted that the efficacy of parliamentary committees in Pakistan could principally be enhanced if our parliamentarians follow the roles and powers of committees as defined in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of National Assembly (1992) and Senate (1988). However, the Speakers also pointed out and questioned some critical issues and challenges that present committees are facing; such as, delay in formation of parliamentary committees and in electing their chairpersons, non-provision of public hearings and televised committee meetings, insignificant role of committees in national budget processes and in defence budgets, disproportionate representation of present Senate committees, etc.

 
 

While presiding the inaugural session Syed Fakhr Imam persuaded the participating parliamentarians to utilize the powers of existing committee system; especially of Standing Committees’ power to view all matters pertaining to their ministries suo moto (on the will of the committee). He asserted that the exercise of this power by the parliamentary committees would ensure a proper scrutiny of the government’s policies and will establish an accountable and participatory democracy. Mr. Gohar Ayub agreed with Fakhr Imam and further added that information regarding the committees of developed democracies should be put on internet as a comprehensive reference for our parliamentarians to learn from international democratic practices. Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani asserted that parliamentarians should elect knowledgeable and experienced chairpersons’ committees, relevant to committees’ particular field in order to make committee an effective organ for executive’s oversight.

 
 

Senator Khurshid Ahmad, MNA Syed Naveed Qamar and Senator Mushahid Hussain were also among the speakers on the occasion. Speaking on ‘how committee system can be made an effective tool for an accountable and participatory democracy’, the speakers asked the participating parliamentarians to realise their role and potential as committee members and bring critical issues on the parliament floor, by raising up common issues, received through public petitions and other civil society organisations. They briefed present members’ parliament that they have a power to question all the policies of the government in the parliament; for this, committees provide a platform where proper research with experts’ opinions are collected to support the findings of the relevant committee. Need for Joint committees of both the houses of Parliament was also raised by the speakers.

 
 

Briefing Session’s main presentation was delivered by Mr. Alauddin Masood, former Joint Secretary Senate. The presentation covered the evolution of parliamentary committees in Pakistan, with a discussion on critical issues and challenges before the present committees. In order to learn from international practices, the presentation also covered the key features of parliamentary committees in developed democracies of United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia and India.

 
 

All sessions were followed by an active Question/ Answer Session that provided a forum for debate and exchange of relevant ideas between speakers and the participating audience.

 
 

In the end, Mr. Ahmad Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director PILDAT, thanked the speakers and the participating parliamentarians for making the session a successful effort of strengthening national legislatures. He expressed his hopes that this Briefing Session by PILDAT would significantly contribute in sensitizing our parliamentarians regarding their powers and roles in committees, which would consequently establish an Effective Committee System.