Strengthening of Parliament by capacity building of
research and training facilities
The first and foremost
thing that I would like to emphasize is this-
remember that you are now a Sovereign legislative
body and you have got all the powers. It therefore
places on you the gravest responsibility as to how
you should take your decisions.
Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's maiden address
to the First Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on
August 11th 1947.
These were the words of the Father of the Nation as
he addressed the First Constituent Assembly of
Pakistan. Fifty eight years down the line, political
observers and analysts are not convinced if the
Legislature is as sovereign as the Quaid envisioned.
While it is tempting to carry on this negative
strain of argument, it is perhaps useful to note
that while a great deal of responsibility has been
placed over the years on the legislature, it has not
been facilitated in executing that responsibility. A
cursory analysis of the fifty eight years would lead
us to enumerate the following challenges before the
> No formal training imparted to legislators whereas
institutions like the judiciary have extensive
national and international training opportunities
available to them. The need for training become a
glaring need for the October 2002 elected
legislators as a majority of them graced the House
for the first time.
> Legislators do not have adequate administrative
back up which is imperative for framing questions,
introducing motion etc.
The lack of formal training and administrative back
up leads legislators to use the House as more of a
photo opportunity rather than use it as an
opportunity to legislate on issues that would
facilitate the development of the country and its
citizens. Consequently, the citizens have a rather
negative perception of the legislations and in fact
the House itself. These state of affairs are not
helped when the citizens are informed through the
media that the House business could not be taken up
due to lack of quorum.
It is important to mention here that some civil
society organizations have tried to address some of
these gaps and have come up with training manuals
for legislators as well as training workshops etc.
Leading names in such attempts are Pakistan
Institute of Legislative Development and
Transparency (PILDAT), Liberal Forum Pakistan (LFP)
and Aurat Foundation to name a few. However, efforts
of these civil society organizations are at best
sporadic and by no means any replacement for
institutionalized training facilities. The National
Defense College has also been entasked with
imparting training to legislators but that scope is
It is encouraging that the Prime Minister's
Secretariat has asked for suggestions for capacity
building of the research and performance of the
Parliament. Some suggestions for these are:
> Establishment of a Parliamentary Training
Institute which should be administered by the staff
of the Parliament itself.
> Training courses on legislative procedures and
parliamentary etiquettes should be organized at the
Parliamentary Training Institute.
> The research wing of the Parliament should be
strengthened by investing in better human resource.
This wing should be entasked with not only
researching for the parliamentarians as is done
presently but also putting out briefing papers on
pressing issues and making presentations to
parliamentarians on it.
> Live telecast of parliamentary proceedings should
be allowed which will not only serve as an important
incentive for better performance by the legislators
but also serve to invoke greater public interest in
the House proceedings. C-SPAN in America is a case
> Review the necessity of having a quorum. There are
parliaments in the world that do not have the quorum
While on the subject of suggestions for the capacity
building of the research and training facilities of
the legislature, one is also tempted to put forth
another idea. While elections can be termed as a
means of evaluating the performance of each
legislator, it might be useful to also develop some
mechanism of parliamentary evaluation as a whole.
There can be a number of ways of doing it. One way
could be to draw up some bench marks like:
> Did the parliament meet the requisite number of
> How much legislation was enacted by the Parliament
1. The first year
2. The second year.
3. Third year
> Was there a lack of quorum during the
> How many questions were raised on the floor of the
> Were written answers supplied by the concerned
> Were the ministers present on the floor of the
House during the parliamentary year?
In other parts of the world, like Cambodia the World
Bank in conjunction with the local government and
non profit organizations has also developed a
Parliamentary Report Card. This report card serves
as providing a useful baseline in establishing
benchmarks of progress and is also useful in making
The Parliamentary Report Card is as follows:
The report card tests parliamentary performance in
four areas of activity that are almost universally
regarded as being core lines of parliamentary
The report card evaluates these four lines of
service against five performance tests, namely:
level and range of activity
openness and transparency
policy and program impact
The first and last of these tests represent the
traditional concerns about how busy and how
influential parliament is while the other three
tests judge the contribution of parliament to core
values of good governance. Specific performance
indicators can be developed for each.
These were some of the suggestions that can serve to
be useful in any discussion of parliamentary