Members of parliament can become effective legislators and effective committee members by working hard, doing their homework, contributing to deliberations, and attending sessions and meetings regularly. This not only will strengthen democracy but also help the members of parliament in better representing the interests of the citizens they represent. These views were expressed by Senator, Ch. Anwar Bhinder, Chairperson, Senate Standing Committee on Government Assurances at the short course for women parliamentarians on “ Being an effective Committee Member”, held in Islamabad on Monday. This was the third in a series of short courses organized by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development And Transparency-PILDAT, in collaboration with UK government’s Global Opportunities Fund, aimed at increasing the legislative capacity of women legislators. Women MPs from all major political parties participated in the course.
Introducing MR. G.C. Malhotra, Former Secretary General of Indian Lok Sabha as the keynote speaker, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Executive Director, PILDAT said that he hoped that through this short course participants would learn new areas in parliamentary practices related to being an effective committee member and gain useful insights from Mr.Malhotra’s in-depth knowledge of parliamentary practices and procedures.
Commenting on the role of members in making parliamentary committees more effective Mr. Farhatullah Babar, Media spokesman of PPPP said the committees offer members the greatest opportunities and effectiveness of a committee depends on the effectiveness of its member. It is up to the members to make the committees powerful and effective bodies in parliament by being committed to their work and knowing their job. He stressed that members should never be content with the briefings provided by the executive branch and must take the time to investigate the issue before the committee through undertaking research with the help of media and civil society expertise.
Comparing the role of committees in India and Pakistan Mr. Malhotra explained that committees in the parliament of India are more effective as they are joint committees of both the houses of parliament, with 21 members from Rajya Sabha and 10 members from Lok Sabha in each Committee. He felt separate committees as in Pakistan can face the issues of overlapping of work as well as have diverging views on the same issue. He further stated that committee members can play a more effective role by being a member of a committee in which she/he has expertise and staying on and enhancing this expertise over time. He cited the example of the United States where he said that if you wanted to become a chair of a committee you had to enhance your skills and expertise in the related area.
Women members of parliament took an active participation in the deliberations and which centred around committee members not being involved in policy-making, no action taken on the recommendations of their committee reports, making committees accountable, selection process of committee members, and sharing of committee minutes and other information and resources available to committees.
The session ended with distribution of certificates of participation to the women members of the Senate and National Assembly.