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Published Date: Feb 6, 2013

SDPI Press Release (February 6, 2013)

Speaking
at the launching ceremony of baseline studies, the experts have called for
empowering citizens’ and inclusion of marginalized groups including women in
democratic process for strengthening of democracy in Pakistan.

The
ceremony was organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here
on Wednesday. The studies conducted under AAWAZ programme focus on women’s
political participation, violence against women, alternate dispute resolution
mechanisms and service delivery in Pakistan.

AAWAZ
is a five-year voice and accountability programme that seeks to strengthen
democratic processes in Pakistan by making it more open, inclusive and
accountable to citizens. The programme is supported by Department for
International Development (DFID), UK and managed by leading civil society
organizations in Pakistan.

Commenting
on findings of study on alternate dispute resolution mechanisms, Chief Guest,
Mian Atta Muhammad Khan Manika, member provincial assembly, Punjab said that
Jirga’s and Punchayat’s are relatively more accessible, quicker and cheaper
methods of dispute resolution available to common man.  Giving a
comparison of formal and informal systems,  he commented that the essence
of Jirga is reconciliation (Suleh) whereas courts pass judgments that does not
necessarily leads to settlement and often the dispute lingers on for years.
However, he also acknowledged serious flaws in informal system and said, “With
the degradation of society and values, Jirga system has also developed serious
anomalies that need to be corrected.”  Manika supported increased
participation of women in political process but at the same time also
emphasized upon their effective involvement in legislative business to ensure
protection of women rights.

Speaking
at the occasion, Helen Appleton, Senior Adviser, DFID showed her concern that
majority of Pakistanis are unable to take effective part in democratic process
and underlined on the need to address widespread marginalization by ensuring
greater political participation.

Sharing
findings of baseline study on women political participation, Safwan Aziz from
SDPI said that despite clear acknowledgment of women rights in constitution,
participation of women in political process is negligible. He argued that
women’s political participation is largely determined by the male support,
education, political knowledge, availability of resources, and a safe, secure
and supportive community environment.

He
said that suspension of the local governance system has been a major impediment
to women’s political participation at grassroots level. The study also provides
evidence that violence against women is considered socially acceptable, and
women are expected to withstand all kinds of physical and psychological
violence without complaining.

Fayyaz
Yasin a researcher with SDPI presented findings of baseline study on status of
public service delivery in KP and Punjab. He shared that service delivery does
not seem to be on priority agenda of the public office bearers, and added that
public at large has no formal mechanism to register their complaints. Citing
some of the study results, he said nearly 93 percent of respondents in study
area get drinking water through private arrangements and also that merely 1
percent of the people boil water before drinking. He also said that over 65
percent of respondents have complained the absence of doctors at public
hospitals.

Hamza
Abbas of SDPI apprised participants on the findings of study on alternate
dispute resolution mechanisms in Pakistan. The study came up with the findings
that urban population prefers formal dispute resolution forums, whereas rural
communities consider informal systems of Jirga’s and Panchayat’s as more
effective.  The study recommends identification of gaps in informal
mechanisms and calls for improvements in accordance with national laws and
international commitments of the state. It also propose introduction of jury
system and enhancing linkages between formal and informal justice mechanisms.

Some
other speakers at the ceremony included, Dr. Saeed Shafqat, Director, Forman
Christian University, Lahore; Dr. Asif Saeed Memon, M&E Specialist, SDPI
and Irfan Mufti of SAPPK.