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CITIZENS’ VOICE PROJECT IDENTIFIES AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT IN LEGISLATIVE GOVERNANCE

The USAID funded Citizens’ Voice Project organized a one-day briefing session on “Citizens’ Voice for Improved Legislative Governance” at Hotel Crown Plaza in Islamabad on December 30, 2014. The purpose of the session was to build a common understanding on legislative governance and identify pertinent issues related to legislative governance for designing advocacy campaign for good legislative governance. Besides, the TDEA staff, 40 representatives of the shortlisted applicants under the thematic area “Citizens’ Voice for Improved Legislative Governance” attended the session, which was moderated by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA) and USAID’s Citizens’ Voice Project’s PD&R team.

Mr. Jameel Hussain, the officiating Chief of Party USAID Citizens’ Voice Project, informed the participants that the session will help improve the shortlisted applications by redesigning proposed activities with more focus on rules and procedures. He emphasized that the ultimate goal of these interventions would be to improve the legislative process and make the legislators accountable and change the direction of the assemblies’ proceedings, focusing more on the public interest rather than the elite class.
Mr. Asif Hussain (Program Officer – PD&R Unit) highlighted the key results and outputs of the proposed interventions while weak areas such as weak linkages between objectives and activities/results, weak sustainability plan, insufficient background information of particular areas, missing baseline information etc. were touched upon by Miss. Fatima Shakeel (Program Officer – PD&R Unit) during the session.
A detailed presentation on legislative governance in Pakistan and guiding framework of best practices was given by Mr. Shahzad Anwar, representing TDEA-FAFEN Secretariat. Apart from shedding light on challenges associated with the legislators/legislature, he also emphasized on the role and functions of Parliament, the fundamental concept and definition of legislative governance, weakness and problems in the regulatory frameworks of Parliament and provincial assemblies. Faisal Hayat from TDEA-FAFEN, focused on regulatory comparison of Senate, National Assembly, and Provincial Assemblies (except AJK & GB Assemblies). He highlighted the gaps in the Rules of Business of assemblies and pointed out some unlawful practices of the parliamentarians prevailing in all the Houses.
In the light of these presentations, the participants were divided into groups for brain storming. As a result, grey areas in the legislative governance such as deviation from the agenda, misuse of resolution, point of order, live casting of Parliamentary sessions, elite captured Parliament and assemblies protecting influential group interests etc. were identified.
The session is expected to bear fruit, as revised applications in the light of this interactive session will be submitted to USAID Citizens’ Voice Project by January 15, 2015, addressing contemporary gaps within legislative governance process.

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BRAINSTORMING SESSION ON IMPROVEMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT SYSTEM

ISLAMABAD, December 16, 2014: The Citizens’ Voice Project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) held an extensive consultative exercise on how to help improve existing Local Government (LG) System and build pressure on the governments to hold LG elections.
The one-day workshop was presided over by the Chairperson of Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability Mr. Zaheer Khattak. The other speakers include Mr. Zahid Islam, Mr. Sarwar Bari, Mr. Nasrullah Khan, Mr. Muhammad Yaqub, Mr. Rashid Chaudhry, Mr. Sahibzada Saud, Mr. Farjad Nabi, Mr. Jameel Hussain, Ms. Uzma Farough and Mr. Ubaid Ullah Chaudhry, who was also the coordinator of the workshop. Mr. Zafarullah Khan of Centre for Civic Education was the special invitee while Mr.Nazeer Mahar, Advisor on Governance represented the USAID. The session was moderated byMr. Aatif Abdullah.

The participants of the in-house session comprised staff from the Program Development and Research, Monitoring & Evaluation, Capacity Building and Organizational Development as well as the Communications and External Relations.

The workshop had eight sessions, in all. During the first session, Director Election’s Observation, Oversight and Research, Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) Mr. Sahibzada Saud informed the audience about the TDEA’s perspective on the importance of Local Government System in Pakistan.

Mr. Zahid Islam and Mr. Zafarullah Khan shared their views on the Importance and History of Local Government System in the context of devolution. Mr. Zafarullah spoke about the technical aspects of the LG System in the context of 18th Amendment while Mr. Zahid Islam emphasized the need for holding early elections of the Local Government Institutions. He was of the view that the provincial government’s functions have to be devolved at the district level to empower the elected representatives of the area.

Mr. Rashid Chaudhry, during his presentation, made comparison of the structures of LGs, devolution of power and authority and strengths and weaknesses of all four provincial Local Government Acts.

Mr. Sarwar Bari wondered why all the military dictators always hold LG polls while civilian leadership abstains from it as it’s a “best legitimacy tool” for them. Like Mr. Zafarullah and Mr. Zahid Islam, Mr. Sarwar Bari also insisted to introduce Article 140b in the Constitution which can guarantee holding of LG polls once their tenure is over like those of National Assembly, Senate and all four provincial assemblies.

Mr. Zaheer Khattak, Muhammad Yaqub, Sarwar Bari and Mr. Nasrullah provided situational analysis of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan provinces respectively. They dwelth at length on the issues and challenges being faced by the provinces in holding LG elections and the opportunities they bring for the civil society.

Mr. Farjad Nabi of Mateela Films highlighted main features of FAFEN’s campaign for Local Government elections which got huge recognition at various forums, including TV, Radio and Social Media.

Ms. Uzma Farough informed the participants about the objectives, agenda and expected results from the consultative workshop while Mr. Ubaid Ullah Chaudhry shared the draft methodology for training of implementing partners on importance of Local Government. The recommendations given by the participants during the session will be incorporated in the manual which is to be developed for the potential grantees under the newly announced grant cycle.

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CENTER FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES ORGANIZES PESHAWAR CONFERENCE TO DISCUSS POST-18TH AMENDMENT CHALLENGES

PESHAWAR, November 11, 2014: The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) with the support of USAID Citizens’ Voice Project arranged Provincial Conference on “Citizens’ Oversight on Implementation of 18th Amendment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in a local hotel on Tuesday. The day-long Conference was attended among others by legislators, academics, journalists, representatives of the civil society and delegates from the project districts i.e. Peshawar, Mardan and Abbotabad. Speaker KP Assembly Asad Qaiser was the chief guest on the occasion.

The CPDI Executive Director Amir Ejaz welcomed the guests while it’s Manager Research and Development Fayyaz Yaseen in his presentation highlighted the findings of a study carried out by the CPDI on post-18th Amendment in three districts of KP in the field of education, health, food and agriculture. Program Manager CPDI Syed Kausar Abbas was the moderator of the Conference.

A large number of legislators, representing various political parties, academics, media persons and civil society representatives spoke at length on the challenges and issues faced by the province in implementing the 18th Amendment. They called for removing the hurdles in the way of implementation of the 18th Amendment, as it would largely benefit the residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Those who expressed their views included Speaker KP Assembly Asad Qaiser, Provincial Education Minister Mohammad Atif Khan, while Jamaat-e-Islami was represented by Senior Provincial Minister Local Government Inayatullah Khan, ANP by Haji Mohammad Adeel, Sardar Hussain Babak and Qaumi Watan Party by Meraj Humayun. Hailing the passage of the 18th Amendment, the speakers were of the view that its implementation should be carried out in timely manner so that the masses could reap the fruits of devolution of power at the grassroots level.

Secretaries of Inter Provincial Coordination, Higher Education, Local Government, Food and Agriculture as well as Additional Secretary Education also attended the Conference.

Some of the academics and media persons were critical of the delayed implementation of the 18th Amendment while some thought that the legislation was just a piece of paper as so many years have passed since the 18th Amendment was passed by the Parliament but the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is yet to see its results.

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