A STEP TOWARD RESPONSIVE LEGISLATURE
USAID Citizens’ Voice Project, continuing with its long term commitment to strengthening legislative governance in Paki-stan, supported an advocacy campaign that led to two amend-ments to the Rules of Procedure of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, 1997. The amendments will contribute to improving legislative governance in the province by making assembly pro-ceedings in line with citizens’ needs.
In Pakistan, legislative governance remains weak and far below public expectations because of a wide range of factors. On the supply side, under-resourced legislative secretariats, limited capacity of legislators, lack of in-time legislative initiatives and weak linkages between legislatures inhibit legislative govern-ance in the country; on the demand side, the lack of public awareness regarding the roles and responsibilities of legislators hinders citizens’ inclusion in the policymaking.
RIGHT TO INFORMATION –JUST A CALL AWAY
The Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA), a USAID Citizens’ Voice Project partner organization, has been successfully managing a toll-free helpline to facilitate the citi-zens in exercising their constitutional right to information. The helpline has been functional since March 2015, when a memo-randum of understanding was signed between CGPA and Khy-ber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Commission (RTIC).
The governance system in Pakistan has considerable room to strengthen its accountability mechanisms. This is especially so since the citizens – particularly those living in the rural areas – are unaware of their constitutional and legal rights, as well as of the mechanisms to hold elected representatives and public offi-cials accountable.
PAVING THE WAY FOR A BETTER TOMORROW!
The education sector in Pakistan has traditionally received little attention from the legislators. In Punjab, the most populous province of the country, the role of the legislators in contributing to educational governance has been limited at best. The lack of legislative oversight of the education sector can be attributed mainly to: (a) limitations of the Rules of Procedure of the Pro-vincial Assembly of the Punjab, 1997; (b) lack of citizens’ awareness; and (c) weak engagement of civil society in proac-tively working to strengthen transparency and accountability mechanisms.
Plugging the gap in educational legislative governance, by em-powering the relevant standing committee of the provincial leg-islature, holds the promise of increased citizen-centered planning, need-based resource allocation and vigorous over-sight. Toward this end, USAID Citizens’ Voice Project – through its partner organization Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS) – implemented a project titled ‘Strengthening Educa-tional Legislative Governance in Punjab’.
ON THE PATH TO REFORM!
On March 01, 2016, USAID Citizens’ Voice Project partner or-ganization Pak Women presented the draft proposing amend-ments to the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Procedure and Conduct of Business Rules, 1988. The amend-ments proposed by the Mardan-based organization are de-signed to improve the performance of the legislature and legislators; and strengthen the participation of citizens, stake-holders and civil society in legislation and executive oversight.
The business rules of the assemblies in Pakistan are either outdated or not aligned with the aspirations of citizens, resulting in a general lack of interest in the legislative process. The be-low-potential performance of the legislature in Khyber Pakh-tunkhwa can be mainly attributed to the lack of understanding of business rules among both the legislators and custodians of the house, and lax implementation of the business rules gov-erning the assembly proceedings.
RIGHT USE OF THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION
When the management of Divisional Public School (DPS)-Sahiwal increased the tuition fee by 20% in September 2015, the parents of the students were outraged. It was the third time in a single year that the school’s management had increased the fee. However, both the school’s management and Board of Governors paid no heed to the demand of the parents who viewed this unbridled fee hike as unjust. When the parents’ demand was left unheard, they were left with no choice but to take to the streets.
USAID Citizens’ Voice Project through one of its partner organ-izations Punjab Log Sujag (PLS), identified this dispute as a means to strengthen citizens’ voice for enhancing transparency and accountability mechanisms at the district level.
WHERE THERE IS A WILL, THERE IS A WAY!
Sarwar Bibi, a 46-year-old mother of eight who has never been to school, broke the cultural barriers when she contested and won the 2015 local government elections on a women’s re-served seat in Dera Ismail Khan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The extent of her achievement is best explained by that the community elders had barred women from even casting their votes in many preceding elections in the district.
This problem of women’s disenfranchisement, however, is not limited to the semi-tribal Dera Ismail Khan. The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) reports that in the 2008 general elections, the last ones for which complete data are available, not even a single ballot paper was stamped at 564 female poll-ing stations throughout the country; of these, a hugely dispro-portionate 85% were situated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A VOICE FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS
Shaheed Benazir Park in Talhar taluka (sub-district) of Badin district in Sindh province is now open to visitors, thanks to Mar-vi Abida who raised her voice to ensure that local women and men have access to the public facility established using devel-opment funds. More important, as a result of Abida’s efforts, two days of the week – Wednesday and Friday – have now been exclusively reserved for female visitors to the park.
Pakistani women, particularly those living in rural areas, lack access to basic human rights guaranteed under the country’s constitution because of a host of factors – social norms and re-strictions being one of the more prominent. In particular, wom-en’s mobility is restricted, so much so that they are denied access to even those facilities – for example, public parks – that are meant for their recreation.
MAINSTREAMING MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES
Kawish Latif Jokhio, a 28-year-old social activist from the un-derdeveloped and remote Badin district in Sindh province, has dedicated his energies to ameliorating the condition of sched-uled caste Hindus, who face discrimination at the hands of both upper caste Hindus and Muslims. To help the members of this marginalized community living in Badin district realize their full potential, Jokhio built their capacity and motivated them to fully participate in the 2015 local government elections.
More than 2.5 million scheduled caste Hindus continue to be extremely vulnerable to discrimination, marginalization and so-cial exclusion in Pakistan. Suffering from acute poverty and rampant illiteracy, coupled with widespread discrimination against them, they do not wield political influence at any level.
SETTING THE RIGHT TONE FOR RIGHTS!
Fayyaz-ul-Islam, a 38-year old pharmaceutical representative-turned-development practitioner, has built the capacity of local communities in Mardan district to seek information from gov-ernment departments under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information (RTI) Act 2013, leading to marked improvements in social service delivery.
One of the primary reasons for irregularities by public officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was citizens’ lack of access to information that affected their lives. On the one hand, the lack of information created disconnect between citizens and public bodies; while, on the other, it incentivized corruption.
A HARBINGER OF CHANGE
Iqbal Ahmad Bhurt, a 44-year old social worker, has made a notable contribution to the society by helping the citizens raise their voice for improved public service delivery. Bhurt’s inter-ventions in Dadu and Khairpur districts of Sindh province have enabled the local communities to ask questions from and follow up with their elected representatives.
While the situation of the disadvantaged sections of society is far from ideal in many parts of Pakistan, those in rural Sindh find it particularly difficult to get their rights.
In Pakistan, electricity shortages, bad for years, have reached crisis proportions. The crisis is the product of multiple factors, from worn out power plants to crumbling transmission lines and from decades-old policy mistakes to circular debt in billions. One reason, however, stands above the others: lack of effective electricity governance. Sustainable power management, where electricity theft is minimized, where supply meets the demand and where consumers are facilitated in their billing process, is need of the hour today. The situation is grave in rural areas, where electricity theft is at its peak resulting in long power break-downs. With energy crisis mounting, community involvement is a must for designing short and long term solutions.Read the full story here
FOR WATER AND LIFE
“We used to cajole them and bribe them [the authorities] for our own right, but God bless PEHE. It is through their efforts that we can now stand with dignity in front of the public servants and demand our right in the most proper manner,” says a satisfyingly smiling Muhammad Ismail.Read the full story here
Goth Seengar Foundation started its project with an aim to improve the cleanliness situation in Jaobabad City by engaging with the Tehsil Municipal Administration (TMA) for proper, timely, periodic and effective solid waste disposal, a work which TMA should be doing otherwise. Initially residents of the city were mobilized from eight union councils to male 60 Mohallah Committees, where each Mohallah comprised of 400-500 houses. It was made sure that female residents of the city also take part in the activities. These committees later on formulated a Citizens’ Oversight Committee (COC) for effective engagement with TMA.
KNOW YOUR “RIGHT TO KNOW”
For a democratic setup to flourish, it requires public participation as much as it needs other bolstering factors. Keeping public office holders involved not only ensures a transparent and accountable state but it also yields a sense of belonging into the hearts of citizens. This, however, is only possible if free flow of information prevails between state institutions and citizens. November 1, 2013 will be remembered as a historic day, for on this day the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Assembly approved “Right to Information Act 2013” and guaranteed citizen’s right to information (RTI) in the light of Article 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan. With this, a remarkable struggle of Center for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) finally bore fruit.
Read the full story here
MEET AN UNSUNG COMMUNITY HERO
Pakistan has an ensuing energy crisis that is affecting the economy on a massive scale. The power sector is faced with the burden of debt, production issues and lack of resources on the one hand, and power theft and pending bill payments worth billions of rupees on the other. People blame the authorities for negligence in service provision to justify non-payment of their dues, while the latter lack the interest and/or capacity to improve their performance and facilitation.Read the full story here
DRAFT FOR THE FIRST SINDH YOUTH POLICY REVISED AND ADVOCATED FOR AMONGST THE PARLIAMENTARIANS
Almost 32 % of Pakistan’s population is between the ages of 15 – 29 years. Sindh is the second most populated province of Pakistan where 32 % of the population falls under this age bracket. Civil Society Support Program (CSSP), a partner organization of USAID Citizens’ Voice Project took up the initiative to form Youth Policy Watch Committees (YPWCs) at the district level and train members of these groups in policy advocacy and oversight of public institutions and to raise awareness among the youth about a provincial youth policy which caters to their needs. The secondary objective of YPWCs is to engage with parliamentarians for the early finalization of Sindh Youth Policy, which takes into consideration the suggestions made by the youth groups.Read the full story here
ENTITLEMENT OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES RESTORED THROUGH OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMEN
Rural Development Policy Initiative (RDPI) implemented a grant in the thematic area of voice for effective grievance redress through office of Ombudsmen funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under the Citizens’ Voice Project in Dera Ghazi Khan and Layyah districts.
COLLECTIVE ACTION LEADS TO EDUCATION AFTER YEARS OF NEGLIGENCE
Villagers from Khorooro in District Tharparkar at Mithi, Sindh used the advocacy campaign on engagement with the government institutions lead to opening of their village primary school for the first time in six years after its construction.
VILLAGERS FOR EDUCATION: SCHOOL RESTORED AFTER THREE YEARS
Rahim Bux Mahar and Zameer Bhambhro, two Community Watch Group (CWG) leaders were able to work successfully to make a government primary school in village Mitho Mahar reopened and restored after more than three years of its closure. Read the full story her
DESERT RESIDENTS GET LIVESTOCK VACCINATED DUE TO AN AWARENESS CAMPAIGN
Muhammad Wasan and his fellow villagers at Malsario, a settlement in union council (UC) Peelo, taluka Nagarparkar, district Tharparkar at Mithi, got their livestock vaccinated after awareness campaign regarding citizen engagement with state institutions and the existing complaint redress mechanisms by the Sindh Rural Support Program (SRSP), a not-for-profit organization based in Sindh, implementing a USAID funded intervention in the desert district of the Mirpurkhas division. Read the full story her
EFFORTS FOR PRODUCTIVE CONDUCT OF BUSINESS IN PROVINCIAL ASSEMBLY
Pak Women, a local not-for-profit organization in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, has worked with provincial legislators to form a working group that proposes recommendations to amend the Conduct of Business Rules of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly. Read the full story here
CAREER SAVED ONLINE
Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan, inhabits a widely scattered population. Security challenges and unemployment threaten the overall prosperity of the province. Read the full story here
WATER IS OUR RIGHT, NOT A FAVOR
The farmers of Chak Number 53/M, an area in Union Council Sagwan, tehsil and district Lodhran of Southern Punjab were faced with a huge water crisis. Find out how DAMAAN helped them receive their due share of irrigation water. Read the full story here
We used to pay an excessive amount of money for our electricity and gas bills. Now, with the help of The Network for Consumer Protection, we are not only able to read our gas and electricity bills, but also know where to complain in case of any issue. Read the full story here