February 16; Experts in discussion with media representatives believed today that the news media and its role and support are critical to rule of law reforms in Pakistan. Lack of uniform implementation of rule of law has become an alarming issue for Pakistan. All major issues facing Pakistan – rising terrorism, corruption, sluggish economic growth, flight of talent and capital, dysfunctional justice system, etc. are all manifestation of a weak rule of law.
PILDAT organised briefing session for media persons on Role of Media in Strengthening Rule of Law in Pakistan during which PILDAT’s 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 on the occasion, President of Parliamentary Caucus on Rule of Law, Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, said that Pakistan score and rank on international rule of law index is disappointing – Pakistan, being the sixth most populous country in the world, is ranked on a dismal 98th position out of a total of 102 countries on the World Justice Project Report on Rule of Law Index 2015. He stressed that alongside the Parliament, the media must also join the cause of strengthening the rule of law in Pakistan.
During the session, PILDAT, Committee of Experts 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.
Discussion focused on how the media can make political executive, police, lawyers, prosecutors and other relevant authorities responsive and accountable to their roles regarding 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.
Participating journalists and parliamentarians also discussed the critical timeline for instituting reforms in rule of law in the context of the 2-year sunset clause placed under the 21st amendment to the Constitution. They also reiterated that Rule of law is established when the most powerful submit before the law; no body; no body is above law.
The PILDAT Committee of Experts who spoke at the Briefing included Mr. Azam Nazeer Tarar, Senior Advocate Supreme Court and Member, Pakistan Bar Council; Dr. Shoaib Suddle, Former IG Police; Dr. Suhail Shahzad, Dean, Faculty of Law & Administrative Sciences, Hazara University; Mr. Muhammad Ali Nekokara, Former SSP Police and Ms. Ayesha Hamid, Advocate High Court.
Speakers of the session 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 and facilitating them for undertaking relevant professional and policy measures.
Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President, PILDAT believed that media should be an ally in strengthening Rule of Law movement because all of us benefit from rule of law and all of us suffer when rule of law weakens.
Key parliamentarians who participated in the session included: Senator Sardar Azam Khan Musakhel (Balochistan, PMAP), Mr. Shehryar Afridi, MNA (NA 14, Kohat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PTI), Rana Muhammad Afzal, MNA (A-82, Faisalabad-VIII, Punjab, PMLN), Mr. Ramesh Lal Vinkwani, MNA (Sindh, PMLN) and Dr. Fouzia Hameed, MNA (Women, Sindh, MQM).
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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