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Published Date: Jan 30, 2013

SDPI Press Release (January 30, 2013)

ISLAMABAD: Speaking at the launch of baseline studies, the experts have
called for citizens empowerment and inclusion of marginalized groups in
democratic process for strengthening democracy in Pakistan.

The
launch of studies was organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute
(SDPI) here on Wednesday. The studies were part of AAWAZ programme which is a
five-year voice and accountability project and seeks to strengthen democratic
processes in Pakistan by making it more open, inclusive and accountable to
citizens. The program is supported by Department for International Development
(DFID), UK and managed by leading civil society organizations in Pakistan.

While
chairing the session, Senator Haji Adeel of ANP commented on leakages,
inefficient public spending and misuse of power, and said that one way of
resolving governance issues in Pakistan, is to enhance citizens voices to hold
public authorities accountable. He was of the view that most of the people,
especially in rural areas, lack basic services and public representatives must
take affirmative actions to provide these facilities.

Former
PPP MNA and Head Peoples Labour Bureau, Chaudhry Manzoor called for supporting
political process in Pakistan. “Political structures need to be strengthened in
the country as often constituency politics dominate policy agenda over broader
issues,” he added. He called upon political parties to establish their research
wings and collaborate with civil society organizations on issues of public
interest. Chaudhry Manzoor also demanded special seats in parliament for
workers and peasants to empower the marginalized communities

He
appreciated the launch of AAWAZ baseline studies and suggested civil society to
also conduct study on bulk of legislations made in recent years through
consensus politics. “Consensus politics is a new trend, where without having simple
majority, political parties were able to make the biggest ever structural
changes in constitution since 1973,” he added.

In
his welcome remarks Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI talked on
some of the positive developments in Pakistani society and urged to capitalize
on them. He said, judiciary and media are playing effective role in reducing
some of the ills at macro level. He also appreciated political parties for
exhibiting maturity and building consensus on rejection of unconstitutional
change in democratic process.  He expressed that despite recent tension
with India on LOC, the resumption of bilateral trade and bus service along with
progress on MFN status to India is a very commendable development.

Dr
Suleri also showed his concerns over increasing acceptance of violence in
Pakistan where the society is rapidly adopting extreme behaviors. He urged the
need to have pluralistic society where people live in peace and harmony.  

Harris
Khalique, Team Lead, AAWAZ gave note of thanks and commented that
democratization of society is a slow and lengthy process where the need is to
build the capacity of people so that they can take effective part in political
process and get hold of their rights.

Earlier,
Fayyaz Yasin of SDPI presented findings of baseline study on status of public
service delivery in KP and Punjab. He said, “Public Service Delivery does not
seem to be on priority list of the public office bearers,” and also the “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’s
obtain drinking water through private arrangements. He also said that over 65
percent respondents have complained absence of doctors at public hospitals.

Sharing
findings of baseline study on women political participation, Safwan Aziz from
SDPI said that despite clear acknowledgment of women rights in constitution,
women’s political participation is negligible. He argued that women’s political
participation is largely determined by male support, basic levels education,
knowledge of political activities, 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 generally considered socially
acceptable, and women are expected to withstand all kinds of physical and
psychological violence without complaining.

Hamza
Abbas of SDPI apprised on the finding of study on alternate dispute resolution,
social cohesion and tolerance. The study came up with the findings that urban
population prefer formal dispute resolution forums whereas people in rural
communities consider informal dispute resolution mechanisms such as Jirga’s and
Panchayat’s as more effective than the formal ones.  The study recommends
identification of gaps in these mechanisms and advocate for improvements in
accordance with the laws of the lands and international commitments of the
state.