Lahore, October 15: Parliament should find ways to increase its contacts with the people and must have a greater say in approval of official policies and in signing and ratification of international agreements by Pakistan, a consultation organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) concluded on Friday.
Participants of the consultation, entitled ‘Parliament’s Functions and its Supremacy’, included parliamentarians, representatives of political parties and members of the civil society.
The consultation unanimously concluded that the parliament derived its powers from the constitution and represents the will of the people and as such its authority to amend the constitution to meet the challenges of a dynamic society must not be taken away on the basis of any contentious theory such as basic features of the constitution.
They expressed concern that the crucial role of parliamentary standing committees in pushing the legislation forward, and in vigilance and oversight on behalf of parliament has been compromised on account of nomination of standing committees’ heads on the basis of party affiliation alone or as a means to reward allies, rather than on the basis of ability or relevant experience. They said that there could be many advantages in increasing interactions between the standing committees in the National Assembly and the Senate and that joint discussion of issues could prevent duplication of efforts.
The need for building capacity of parliamentarians by sensitising them on rules of procedure with a view to effective representation was also stressed.
The participants said that one way of asserting parliament’s supremacy in legislation is by abandoning the preference of ruling through ordinances.
They expressed concern over lack of parliament’s say in official policies and in signing and ratification of international agreements by Pakistan.
They emphasised the urgent need for legislation to provide a mechanism for Pakistan’s bilateral and multilateral agreements to be ratified by parliament, with a view to ensuring effective representation of the people.
It was argued that the scope of bills introduced by private members needs to be expanded and once private members bills are admitted they should be treated in the same manner as bills introduced by the government.
The participants emphasised that contacts between parliament and people need to be improved from both sides and emphasised the role that timely publication and publicisation of parliament’s proceedings and those of parliamentary committees could play.
They highlighted the importance for political parties to introduce more democratic and decentralised approaches in their internal affairs and added that many flaws in the parliamentary system could be addressed by a more robust and interactive role of the political parties.
Dr. Mehdi Hasan