Media should raise voice for institutionalising Rule of Law Reforms in public interest: Experts


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February 23: In a robust dialogue with media persons and journalists, a panel of experts urged the media to be more proactive in raising its voice for institutionalising Rule of Law reforms in Pakistan.

In the dialogue organised by PILDAT, its Rule of Law (RoL) Committee of Experts highlighted key issues and proposed reforms to strengthen Rule of Law and access to justice in Pakistan. Prominent media persons, Parliamentarians, experts and youth representatives joined the lively discussion.

Speaking at the session, Mian Mahmud ur Rasheed, MPA, (PP 151, Lahore-XV, Punjab, PTI), Leader of opposition in Punjab Assembly said that mind-set, especially of elite class, should be changed for reforming Rule of Law in the country. Budget of police have been increased in Punjab but Thana culture could not change as yet. He said empowering the institutions is important for improving rule of law situation in province.

The panel speakers observed that media’s objective role and support are critical for bringing about much needed Rule of Law reforms in Pakistan. Key issues facing the country, such as terrorism, corruption, sluggish economic growth, flight of talent and capital, dysfunctional justice system etc., are all manifestations of weak and ad hoc Rule of Law implementation.

During the dialogue, the Committee of Experts also shared with the media a proposed Reform Agenda. The agenda has been prepared through countrywide consultations held by PILDAT since August 2015 with public representatives, subject experts, legal practitioners and journalists to discuss specific ways and means for strengthening of Police, Prosecution Services, and Free Legal Aid system in Pakistan.

The discussion focused on how the media can make political executive, police, lawyers, prosecutors and other relevant authorities responsive and accountable to their roles to ensure access to justice. Experts also shared international experiences from India and the U.K. on how the local media collaborated with civil society to generate awareness and successfully moved local authorities to provide community justice.

Participants also discussed the fast elapsing timeline for instituting Rule of Law reforms in the context of the 2-year sunset clause placed under the 21st amendment to the Constitution. They reiterated that Rule of Law is established when the most powerful submit before the law — no body is above the law.

Speakers also endorsed the need for training and encouraged journalists to use the Right to Information law frequently and to continuously play their watchdog role. They agreed that media should report on and advocate for the need of an effective criminal justice system. They also lauded PILDAT’s efforts for building their awareness on Rule of Law.

The PILDAT Committee of Experts who spoke at the Briefing included Dr. Shoaib Suddle, Former IG Police; and Dr. Suhail Shahzad, Dean, Faculty of Law & Administrative Sciences, Hazara University. The other speakers include Mr. Abid Saqi, Member Pakistan Bar Council, Mr. Mujib ur Rehman Shami, Editor in Chief Daily Pakistan and Mr. Iftikhar Ahmed, Senior Anchor.

President PILDAT, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, stressed that media should be an ally in strengthening a RoL movement in Pakistan in genuine public interest.
Key points of the Rule of Law Reform Agenda shared with the media and other civil society actors include:  

  • Allocation of funds and increase in budget for Police;
  • Amendment in Section 154 of Code of Criminal Procedure 1898;
  • FIRs to be made simple, online and computerised;
  • No arrest to be made after FIR without evidence;
  • Protection of witnesses through enactment of relevant laws to prevent resiling testimony from witnesses;
  • Establishment of Legal Aid Authority at Federal and Provincial level; and
  • Enactment of Public Defenders & Legal Aid Office Ordinance 2007.

The Briefing Session was organised by PILDAT as part of Reforms in Rule of Law in Pakistan project, supported by Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI) under the Enhanced Democratic Accountability and Civic Engagement (EDACE) project.

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