January 14; Speakers and MPs at the PILDAT briefing on Effective Committee Membership, emphasized that it is a key responsibility for members of Parliament to strengthen Parliament and make committees effective.
Speakers at the session included Senator Saussi Palijo, Chairperson, Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, former Senator and Secretary General PPP-Parliamentarian, Farhatullah Babar, Ms. Shaista Pervaiz, MNA and former Secretary, Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, Senator Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Abdul Qayyum, Chairperson, Senate Standing Committee on Defence Production, Ms. Kanwal Shauzab, MNA and Parliamentary Secretary Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, and Ms. Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director PILDAT.
Senator Sassui Palijo, Chairperson Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, thanked PILDAT for such capability sessions and also highlighted how PILDAT has been striving to improve parliamentary diplomacy through improving dialogues with other Parliaments. She highlighted that there is not only role within your own committees, but based on a member’s expertise, they can go as guest speakers to other committees. She said committees must invite outside expertise wherever required, to improve public governance for citizens. Committees to take everyone along; make Parliament
Addressing the participants, Senator Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Abdul Qayyum, Chairperson, Senate Standing Committee on Defence Production, said that it is important to remember that MPs need to make committees effective by themselves being effective. Oversight does not mean adversarial relationship. It is about improving the ministries and departments we oversee as MPs.
Ms. Shaista Pervez Malik, MNA, said that her political journey as a member of Parliament has hugely benefitted from PILDAT’s work over the years in building capabilities of MPs and parties both in Pakistan and abroad. She said that committees are the soul of Parliament. Alongside being prepared for meetings, she said that it is also important that the system of committees is improved so that members get agenda of committees at least a week before each meeting. She highlighted that it is crucial that MPs, both in committees and individually, members seek and receive input from experts, organisations and civil-society organisations. Effective participation in committees is not just needed with punctuality but to remain involved throughout the proceedings of committee.
Former Senator and Secretary General PPP-Parliamentarian, Farhatullah Babar said that PILDAT deserves appreciation for focussing on the important subject of committee effectiveness but also serving as the oldest training academy for legislative strengthening. He said that women MPs have displayed the most talent in effectiveness and a great desire for learning and strengthening their role as MPs. He said that there is a general hesitation in bureaucracy to hide information. It is the job of committees to question and seek information. While preparing for committee meetings, he said that members must also focus on reading minutes so that to ensure these accurately record proceedings. He emphasised committees, while discussing reports must not only adopt reports but to follow-up to ensure recommendations are being pursued. Members must also ensure that assurances by ministers in committees must be recorded in minutes and then members must take these to Senate Committee on Government Assurances to hold government to account. Committees and members must focus on consulting with expertise as no one person can be aware of everything. Members must invoke the powers to convert the house into a Committee of Whole on important national issues which may not be possible in departmental committees. Committees can also direct government entities, such as National Commission on Human Rights, to investigate an issue which may not be in the purview of committees.
Ms. Kanwal Shauzab, MNA, stressed on the need for more and more such capacity building sessions to be held so as to build capabilities of all members of Parliament. Even though women are very effective as members, it is generally thought that they are not very aware and because most are indirectly-elected, they are not well-versed with real issues. Not just fellow members have this bias against female MPs, but even bureaucracy in committees tends to believe women MPs are not aware of issues. Therefore, instead of building capabilities of women MPs and raising their confidence, such a bias makes women MPs lose their existing confidence. Women MPs have not been allocated committees based on their expertise. She urged that not only fellow members and parties, but organisations such as PILDAT must work to ensure that the crucial issue of discrimination against women MPs is resolved.
Beginning the session, Ms. Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director PILDAT, said that the session is organised to highlight that effectiveness of committees is in effect effectiveness of Parliament. Committees, in both Senate and the National Assembly, have immense powers to “examine budget, expenditures, administration, delegated legislation, public petitions and policies of a ministry or department, its associated public bodies, and advise ministries/departments of their recommendations.” This huge role also poses a crucial responsibility for MPs to effectively play their role. She shared that a detailed briefing paper has been prepared on the subject which is shared with MPs and is available at PILDAT website at [English Version] [Urdu Version].
The course saw active participation, Q&A and discussion by MPs who included Ms. Rukhsana Naveed, MNA, PTI, Ms. Uzma Riaz, MNA, PTI, Dr. Seemi Bokhari, MNA, PTI, Ms. Naureen Farooq Khan, MNA, PTI, Ms. Najma Hameed, Senator, PML-N, Ms. Keshoo Bai, Senator, PPPP, Ms. Saira Bano, MNA, GDA, Ms. Sitara Ayaz, Senator, ANP, Ms. Shaista Pervez Malik, MNA, PML-N, Senator Lt. Gen (Retd) Abdul Qayyum, PML-N, Ms. Shunila Ruth, MNA, PTI, Ms. Nafeesa Inayat Ullah Khattak, MNA, PTI, Dr. Mehar Taj Roghani, Senator, PTI, Ms. Sassui Palijo, Senator, PPPP, Ms. Seemi Ezdi, Senator, PTI, Ms. Shahida Rehmani, MNA, PPPP, Dr. Shazia Sobia Aslam Soomro, MNA, PTI, Ms. Syma Nadeem, MNA, PTI, Ms. Ghazala Saifi, MNA, PTI, Ms. Nusrat Wahid, MNA, PTI, Ms. Farukh Khan, MNA, PML, Zahra Wadood Fatemi, MNA, PML-N, Kanwal Shauzab, MAN, PTI, Ms. Shamim Ara Panhawar, MNA, PPPP and Ms. Nasiba Channa, MNA PPPP.
The PILDAT briefing on Effective Committee Membership focusing exclusively on enhancing the capacities of women MPs was held in collaboration with the International Republican Institute.