The Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) held an absorbing seminar and Inter University contest on Friday, 14th September, 2017, on the Inter Parliamentary Union theme – “What if the Parliamentary Oversight was not there?” to commemorate the International Democracy Day, 2018. The occasion also marked the United Nations Declaration of Democracy adopted in September, 1997-98. The event was attended by Honorable Members of the Parliament along with over 115 faculty members; students from six universities of Islamabad and members of team PIPS. The Seminar started with the National Anthem of Pakistan and recitation from the verses of Holy Quran.
Ms Fakiha Mehmood, Research officer, moderated the first session comprising panel discussion on IPU theme for the occasion. Mr Zafarullah Khan, Executive Director, Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) highlighted the key role of parliamentary oversight providing basis for accountability of government that triggers good governance. He not only shared eye opening facts about parliamentary history of the country but also narrated how tools such as Questions Hour, Calling attention notices and over all functioning of Committees are imperative ways to scrutinize the government policy, administration, budget spending and service delivery. He termed Parliament as the brain of the society that processes and coordinates messages to other state institutions who all work in harmony through performance of their functions in accordance with the Constitution of Pakistan.
Honorable Ms. Shahida Akhter Ali, Member National Assembly of Pakistan (MNA) elaborated the IPU theme “If Parliamentary Oversight was not there?” She highlighted the fact democracy is not only a mean to achieve the right of vote but it also gives us authority to hold government accountable besides freedom to live freely in the society. According to her, “a weak democracy is better than robust dictatorship.” She gave the example of Prophet Muhammad (saw) who always preferred to take decisions in consultations with his companions and respected the democratic opinions in the society. She emphazised that institutions should respect the sanctity of vote in the country that remains the basis of Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision of a pluralistic parliamentary democracy where authority lies with the Parliament elected by the people. She gave practical examples of her experience in working in the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly of Pakistan that recovered Rs 300 million through audit of various departments in last three years. Honourable MNA also shared how she learnt and exercised the various tools e.g Questions, Motions, Resolutions, Calling Attention Notices and committees to scrutinize government policies, budget allocations as well as spending and administrative service delivery.
Ms Shahida Akhter Ali, MNA, also made an inspirational narration about her own transformation from a simple teacher in a degree college to a Member of the Parliament and how regularly learning about Constitution, Rules and tools of oversight enabled her to contribute in making the government deliver more effectively and efficiently both in terms of optimum utilization of funds as well as implementing the policies and development targets. She expressed the hope that Pakistani youth are aware of the mission of their forefather and besides media propaganda the young minds have always been the source of support for peace and dialogue in the society that is possible objectively only in democratic regime based on vote of the masses.
This was followed by a speech from newly elected Honorable Senator Faisal Javed who highlighted how dynamic young Members of parliament are leading key committees such as the Senate Committee on devolved legislation. He expressed his hope that Pakistani students are very bright and talented and if they work hard and have faith in their abilities they can strengthen democratic tradition by holding government accountable to the masses. The enlightening addresses by honorable Parliamentarians were followed by an Inter University Quiz Competition among students from different universities including Bahria University, Islamabad; National Defence University, Islamabad; COMSATS University Islamabad; International Islmaic University, and Capital University of Science and Technology (CUST), Islamabad. The theme of the three round competition was – Know Your Parliament and Parliamentary History! After an individual round of two questions from each member of two member teams from the participating universities, round two comprising three questions were asked. Two contestants participated from every university, and CUST and International Islamic University (IIUI) Islamabad qualified for the final round as highest scorers in first two rounds. In the final round Capital University of Science and Technology (CUST), Islamabad, secured the overall first position followed by International Islamic University. Ms Tehseen Khalid, Deputy Director Research conducted the quiz while Mr Muhammad Rizwan Manzoor was the scorer. MNA Ms Shahida Akhter Ali and Executive Director PIPS Mr Zafarullah Khan presented Mementoes to the faculty members of all six universities and Prizes to all Winners and individual participants. Mr. Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director General Research and Legislation, PIPS, presented the vote of thanks to the Guests of Honour, Executive Direcror and all the participating universities for making the event a rousing success. The wholesome democracy day function concluded with slogans of Long Live Democracy and Pakistan Zindabad!!!