Politically aware public can make legislators commit to constitution



Awareness of Pakistan’s Constitution among the electorates can help challenge and pressurize the legislators to pursue public interest and set priorities for lawmaking based on collective welfare, national consensus, and institutional competency in the current political environment marred by legislation based on personal interest.

These views emerged during a session titled ‘Impacts of Political Environment on Legislation Processes’ held at the Institute of Policy Studies with the research associates of Tadveen (legislative drafting and research clinic at the National Assembly) of Mantaq Center for Research. The session was addressed by Imran Shafique, advocate, high court and former special prosecutor NAB, Khalid Rahman, chairman, IPS, and Farzana Yaqoob, CEO and founding member, Mantaq.

Although policymaking in Pakistan is seemingly based on national interest, one cannot find a forum or place where national interest is studied, analyzed, debated, and determined, argued Imran Shafique while highlighting the dichotomy in the system.

He maintained that the Constitution of Pakistan is the reflection of the people’s will and aspirations, and it does not permit personal-specific legislation or legislation against the Qur’an and Sunnah and has established institutions like Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) and Federal Shariat Court (FSC) to ensure compliance. Despite that, the legislative process in practice is subverted because the country’s political environment undermines the Constitution and its implementation.

The lobbying done by politicians, person-specific legislation, the influence of political interest of non-political entities (both national and international), and personal dispositions of legislators are some of the elements of the political environment that undermine the relevance of public interest in lawmaking.

Lobbying by politicians, who only focus on attracting popular vote, increasing their vote bank, and preparing for the next election, has become a part of the political legacy in which the ruling elite has to maintain its dominance. In such a situation, the legislation done is person-specific with no regard for collective welfare or public interest.

Another significant aspect of the legislative process is that political interests are not just limited to politicians. Even entities, institutions, and actors having no link to politics push their political interest, often bigger than the politicians, and influence lawmaking.

Moreover, it often happens that legislators coming from different backgrounds pursue different interests because of the development disparities between the provinces. These may not be in the public interest at the national level. Though this conflict of interest is not limited to Pakistan, it has become extremely prominent in the country.

In the concluding remarks, Khalid Rahman maintained that while the country may ascend and descend in certain aspects at times, it must be kept in view that Pakistan’s journey toward a sustained political environment, strong legislation, and development is ongoing.

He noted that Pakistan, while learning from past mistakes, is working towards progress. In this evolving journey, the strength of actors involved in decision-making, competent leadership, and an outlook for development are significant in doing away with the flaws of the political environment.

For this, it is necessary to understand things in a wider context. Moreover, unless the public is politically educated and trained and possesses political awareness to pressurize the decision-makers and legislators, the country cannot achieve development and a sustained political environment.