Lawmakers, Media hail civil society’s effort for providing unbiased parliamentary information

ISLAMABAD, Feb 25, 2015: The parliamentarians and the media lauded the efforts of Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) for introducing a web portal that could be used to gauge the performance of elected representatives on the floor of the house. The members from the Senate and the National Assembly were appreciative for making them accountable and connecting them with the constituents with the help of portal.

FAFEN information portal launching ceremony was attended by parliamentarians belonging to different political parties, representatives of FAFEN, former Secretary of Senate, members of civil society, international community and media at a local hotel on Tuesday.

Senior parliamentarian Senator Haji Adeel of Awami National Party bemoaned the attitude of the bureaucracy towards the elected representatives. He said people elect their representatives, but they are very low paid and therefore, can’t concentrate on meaningful legislation. He was of the view that parliamentarians should be respected and facilitated in doing their legislative role.

Director Programs FAFEN Muddassir Rizvi urged the government to provide more resources to the parliamentarians and stressed the need for ending external intervention in the affairs of parliamentarians for better output. He said Rules of Business should be improved for better parliamentary results.

Eulogizing the performance of the 13th National Assembly, Mr Rizvi said 15 private members’ bills were passed during its tenure (2008-13) which had never been happened before. He said improvement could be seen in the affairs of parliamentarians if they were sensitized towards their responsibilities and ensured more resources.

A female lawmaker of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Ms. Ayesha Syed, termed the launch of Parliamentary Information Portal and website (Openparliament.pk and www.parliamentfiles.com) as a good attempt to connect lawmakers with the people as, she thought, parliamentary role of elected representatives could be monitored through it.

She said the parliamentary proceedings should be shown live on television and FAFEN should inform citizens about the actual attendance of legislators in the house.

PPPP Senator Saeeda Iqbal said people expect parliament to provide such information but FAFEN has taken the lead by introducing this parliamentary information portal. She suggested to focus on the performance of Standing Committees and observe more committees to inform public about their real output.

“Legislation is the actual task for parliamentarians but it is hardly accomplished. Reasons should be probed behind this lapse and efforts to be made to cover it,” she added.

PTI Member Assembly Sajid Nawaz said FAFEN had worked tremendously during last general elections. He said electorates could gauge the performance of their legislators through parliamentary portal. He lamented that the parliamentarians seem more interested in transfers and postings and allocation of development funds rather than their actual task of legislation. He stressed the need for conducting training for lawmakers so that they could have better understanding of the parliamentary proceedings and can play their role effectively.

PML-N female MNA Tahira Aurangzeb said that common people would have access to parliament through this portal and it would be easy for them to judge which members are more “active” or otherwise in representing their constituents on the floor of house.

Another PML-N legislator, Seema Mohiuddin Jameeli, said lawmakers had to toe the party policy in the parliament, however, this portal will be the first step to break this status quo. Senator Khalida Perveen of Pakistan Peoples Party said that lawmakers would now become more conscious about their participation in the parliamentary proceedings especially after the launch of FAFEN portal.

Former Secretary of Senate Iftikharullah Babar termed parliamentary portal as a good effort on part of the civil society organization. He, however, said FAFEN should not count the interventions of the parliamentarians as most of the times their party leadership abstains them from speaking on the floor of the house.  He said in democracy heads are counted, and not wait.

President National Press Club Shaharyar Khan and Secretary General Parliamentary Reporters Association Arshad Waheed Chaudhry said access to information should be ensured for media persons. They hailed FAFEN for making a good effort to check parliamentary role of elected representatives.

Speaking on the occasion, CEO FAFEN Shahid Fiaz said that FAFEN has been observing the Parliament and provincial assemblies since 2011. Its impartial observers, he said, provide unbiased oversight of the parliamentary interventions and information is shared with stakeholders in the form of analytical reports, daily factsheets, press releases and recommendations to improve parliamentary processes.

He said the portal will give opportunity to voters to connect with their elected representatives and write to them over an issue and in turn get their response.

National Youth Assembly President Hannan Ali Abbassi said that parliamentary information should be disseminated through other mediums due to limited internet users in Pakistan. He demanded parliamentarians to declare their assets accurately as concealing information is tantamount to misleading public.

Earlier, FAFEN representative Adnan Anjum gave a detailed briefing to the participants about this portal.

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