18 Nov 2014

Democratic Accountability: Examining the Efficacy of Constitutional Instruments

With democratic accountability
Islamabad: The constitutionally-mandated reports on implementation of Principles of Policy and performance of Council of Common Interests, National Economic Council and National Finance Commission are a democratic instrument of accountability and oversight to gauge the government’s performance and functionality of the Constitution.
This was observed at research-based seminar on “Democratic Accountability: Examining the efficacy of constitutional instruments” jointly arranged by Centre for Civic Education Pakistan and Strengthening Participatory Federalism and Decentralization (SPFD) program of United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Deputy Chairman Senate of Pakistan, Senator Sabir Ali Baloch said ‘the 18th Amendment has introduced unique accountability mechanisms. Their effective implementation is vital for the enrichment of the country’s democratic system.” He acknowledged that the mere presentation of constitutional reports was not enough, rather the parliamentarians, civil society, academia and the media must discuss and debate on these reports. Amir Khan Goraya, Assistant Country Director UNDP, said that UNDP Pakistan is dedicated to deepen understanding of the 18th Amendment and engage with various stakeholders for production of relevant knowledge and provide technical assistance to various tiers of governance. “The UNDP is proud to be part of this pioneering effort and hope that this research culture will expand to universities,” he added
Zafarullah Khan, Executive Director of the Centre, talked about the culture of constitutional reports and compliance. He said, “the constitutionally mandated reports are delayed for years and they have never been discussed in the Parliament or any provincial assembly.” He added that institutions need to communicate and coordinate with each other to improve the quality and timeliness of these reports.
Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmed of Karachi University reviewed the latest annual report of Council of Common Interests (CCI), Asma Faiz of Lahore University of Management Sciences made a presentation on Report on Principles of Policy, Dr. Idrees Khawaja of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics analyzed the Report of National Finance Commission, and Zubair Faisal Abbasi of Institute of Development Initiatives examined the report of National Economic Council. While Dr. Ijaz Khan, Dr. Fouzia Saeed and Naseer Memon were the lead discussants.
Dr. Syed Jaffar Ahmed analyzing the report put forth by the CCI said that since the 18th Amendment, the Council has emerged as one of Pakistan’s most important institutions. Dissemination of and discussion on this report is crucial to healthy inter-provincial relations in Pakistan. Ms. Asma Faiz, talking about the report on the implementation of Principles of Policy expressed her appreciation at the publication and presentation of this report. However, she lamented that while some data is present in this report, data analysis has not been adequately taken up. Further, she said that more details on implementation should be added. She also pointed out that discussion on local-government is missing, while that on minorities’ remains scant. Dr. Fouzia Saeed said that such seminars are bound to lead to the improvement of the quality of these reports. She added that while the principles of policy are filters rather than action points, they must be reflected in government priorities. She recommended that civil society can engage in the practice of printing shadow reports.
Dr. Idrees Khwaja, discussing the NFC report termed fair distribution of resources essential to interprovincial harmony. He said that the NFC reports need more detailed information on expenditure utilization which will make these reports more useful. Zubair Faisal Abbasi examining the report of NEC said, ‘the report does not highlight that need-based planning is happening in the country.” Amjad Bhatti said that SPFD project would continue supporting robust discussions and learning events on constitutional governance in Pakistan.