PIPS Parliament at 70 Years of Pakistan – August 10-11, 2017: As envisioned by the Honourable Speaker National Assembly/President PIPS Board of Governors Sardar Ayaz Sadiq a two day Conference to commemorate the celebrations of 70 years of the Parliament, was held at the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS). Enlightening and insightful reflection upon the history of Parliament was shared by the key note speakers of the session. Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan Sardar Ayaz Sadiq inaugurated the Conference on Thursday, Aug 10, 2017 and Former Speakers Syed Fakhar Imam and Gohar Ayub spoke as the Guests of the Honour.
Day One – Thursday, August 10, 2017: The proceedings commenced with National Anthem and recitation of verses from the Holy Quran by Ms Samra Minhaj. The Executive Director Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services Mr. Zafarullah Khan shared his welcome remarks in which he thoroughly reflected upon the historic moments of Parliament and appreciated the initiatives & efforts taken by former & current speakers of National Assembly of Pakistan. Around 120 parliamentary experts from National Assembly, Senate and members of civil society and students participated in the event. Mr Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director Research and IT was the Moderator of the inaugural day one programme. He shared how the founding fathers set up the unprecedented self-example from the first day when a non-Muslim Dalit MP Hon. Jogander Nath Mandal was requested to preside the first Session of the 1st Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on Sunday 10 am on 10th August, 1947. This is clear manifestation of the fact that Pakistan holds all citizens in equality with no discrimination against ant strata of society from its very creation.
Former Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan Syed Fakhar Imam shed light on the constitutional and political history of Pakistan. While sharing his insight he stressed upon the need of reforms in institutions & democratization of system. He also shared his famous ruling against martial law and a 300 years old precedent in UK House of Commons which applied right of governance lies with the elected Parliament. He shared that Money matters specifically are decided by National Assembly and not the Senate because it is a directly elected House of the people whose Speaker has the authority to decide regarding any money matter. He was categoric that as envisioned by the forefathers of Pakistan and specially the Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the will of the people as manifested by the elected National Assembly remains the foremost and sovereign authority that all institutions must accept and respect in all circumstances.
Former Speaker National Assembly Syed Fakher Imam highlighted seven important themes of Quaid’s inaugural speech to the first Constituent Assembly on 11th August, 2017 which included and he quoted that the Quaid said: “You will no doubt agree with me that the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property, and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State…if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor.
The former Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan Mr. Gohar Ayub Khan underlined the historical background of first Constituent Assembly highlighting the principle of will of the people being the citadel of nations’ aspirations. He also narrated his role as Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan and many exclusive anecdotes.
Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan Sardar Ayaz Sadiq in his address thanked the former speakers for their valuable time in celebrating the 70 year long journey of Parliament of Pakistan. He deliberated the hurdles and challenges a speaker has to face during his time as the custodian of house. Sardar Ayaz Sadiq stressed upon the need of arranging such sessions where former National Assembly Speakers can come & share their respective experiences while adding to the history of Parliament. “The performance of committees has improved over time but yet a lot needs to be done” said Sardar Ayaz Sadiq. He also shared his initiative for introduction of parliamentary studies in 17 universities to promote education of the ideals of the Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Hon Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said that 2017 marks the 70 years of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s resilient existence as an independent state. On the eve of the 70th year of independence there is an emerging realization among all stakeholders that the salvation of 200 million plus Pakistanis depends on functioning of delivering democracy. This trajectory entails centrality of representative democratic institution and puts the Parliament at the heart of nations’ future. The Constituent Assembly of Pakistan started working on August 10, 1947. This Conference by the National Parliament and PIPS is a small initiative to commemorate the day and to highlight the significant contributions made by the Parliament of Pakistan in last 70 years (1947-2017) and its distinct role within the constitutional scheme of trichotomy of power on August 10-11, 2017. He expressed the hope that participation of around 250 MPs, civil society, academia, media men and students will expand understanding about the role and contributions of the Parliament as part of the Independence Celebrations.
The first day of event concluded with cake cutting ceremony by the Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq, Former Speaker National Assembly Syed Fakhar Imam and Mr. Gohar Ayub Khan. PIPS Director Research and IT Mr Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka presented the vote of thanks. Hon Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq presented Mementoes to the former Speakers while Executive Director Mr Zafarullah Khan presented shield to the Honourable Speaker/ President PIPS Board of Governors Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.
Day Two: Friday, August 11, 2017: Sessions two and three were held on 11th August, 2017. Ms Marriyum Aurangzeb, MNA and Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage graced the occasion as the Chief Guest while MNA Ms Asiya Nasir from JUI (F) and senior parliamentary reporter Hafiz Tahir Khalil covering Parliament since 1970s were the key note speakers. Ms Tehseen Khalid, Senior Research Officer PIPS conducted the absorbing session while Director Research and IT Mr Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka moderated the Q and A session.
Hon. Ms Asiya Nasir, MNA, paid rich tributes to the Father of the Nation Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah who symbolized equality of citizens, protection and affirmative action for non-Muslim communities and welfare of all strata of society as the top priority of the State. She quoted that Quaid had said that: “…If everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs…is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make…You are free; you are free to go to your temples you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State.
Hafiz Tahir Khalil highlighted how journalism and parliamentary reporting in 1970s covered quality debates in the National Assembly and produced reporting which was termed as “literature in short time,” and history saw many luminaries who progressed as parliamentary reporters to be respected as seasoned journalists. He said focus was pen and objectivity and language always remained logical, simple and bi partisan. Hafiz Tahir Khalil admitted that “race of rating,” and the mushrooming of electronic media has compromised the neutrality of the reporters’ role and journalism’s watch dog function has been replaced by one-sided biased reporting backed by mud-slinging of the channel in competition. This has marred the tolerance and peace in society with conflict and the indigenous values of objectivity is a rare sight today. Hafiz Tahir Khalil emphasized the need of reformation and retrospection on the part of the parliamentary reporters to maintain objectivity and avoid rat race of rating and keep in mind the Constitutional and legitimacy of politics. He emphasized that the new breed of parliamentarians from various parties also need to be logical, follow lawful discourse and never extend their arguments to animosity or intolerance that brings disrepute to the institution of Parliament, which is sacred as it carries the aspirations and will of the people.
Ms Marriyum Aurangzeb, Minister for State for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage acknowledged that Pakistan was envisioned as a parliamentary democracy where vote of people of Pakistan remains of key importance as arbitrators of final decision on all matters of the State. She highlighted that Constitution should be followed in letter and spirit by all institutions and any policy for sustainable development will remain a far cry till the times that democracy continues and Constitution is respected, protected and implemented by all. She also gave examples of development projects such as the Bikhi Power Project which has been acknowledged in Guiness Book of World Records as the quickest power project to be completed in record time. She was of the opinion that democracy promises hopes to the people and rat race of private tv channels to enhance rating has compromised objective analysis by media which now enhances polarization in the country. She concluded with the hope that Pakistan will progress in the spirit of the Father of the Nation.
The two day Dialogue on Parliament@70 concluded in the afternoon with a lecture by Hon Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, Chairman Senate on “Challenges of protecting the will of the people.” The session commenced with the National Anthem and recitation of verses from the Holy Quran. Ms Samer Awais Director Training PIPS was the Moderator. Mr Zafarullah Khan Executive Director presented the welcome note and acknowledged the role and meritorious services of the Honourable Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, Chairman Senate of Pakistan in the 18th Constitutional Amendment that revived the original essence of the 1973 consensus Constitution of Pakistan looked up by all citizens as the basic social contract of rights and obligations.
The Honourable Chairman Senate reiterated the need for institutional dialogue among State institutions – Legislature, Executive including civil military bureaucracy and judiciary for reforms to consolidate the tradition of parliamentary democracy and rule of law in the country. He welcomed all political parties to sit together and bring essential amendments in Constitution to ensure that Constitution and Democracy continues to flourish in the country as it remains the only way to deliver the aspirations of a welfare state for the people and masses. The session concluded with the Vote of thanks by the Executive Director Mr Zafarullah Khan.