By : Asma Faiz.
The Principles of Policy (PoP) are an essential component of Pakistani law covered in the Preamble to the 1973 Constitution. These clauses are diverse in nature covering different aspects of governance and policy-making in the country. In essence the PoP provide a guiding light for policy-makers who are entrusted with the responsibility of catering to the material, physical and psychological well-being of the Pakistani citizens. The Pakistani constitution has made it compulsory for state to prepare and submit a report on progress in implementation of PoP to the federal parliament on an annual basis (Article 29). The responsibility of drafting a report on various ministries and institution’s performance has been entrusted to the Cabinet Division. This write-up presents a brief review of the report on implementation of PoP for the year 201-2011. Both houses of federal parliament are supposed to review this annual report in an effort to evaluate state’s performance. However like most of the other issue domains, the powers of National Assembly are much wider than the Senate which is only given one day to review and debate this report. The current report is the first such effort looking into the implementation and practice of PoP. After the promulgation of the 18th Amendment, such reports were supposed to be annually prepared and reviewed on the floor of national parliament.
The PoP are covered in Articles 29-40 of the 1973 Constitution. They cover different aspects of national life. Important themes included in these clauses are promotion of Islamic way of life; local government institutions; discouragement of parochial and other prejudices; enabling women’s participation in national life; protection of family and minorities; promotion of social justice and eradication of social evils and promotion of socio-economic well-being of citizens. Thus it appears from the content, that the PoP provide a broad compass of directions for state to fulfill its responsibilities in social, political and economic spheres. Based on the contents of PoP, it seems that the founding fathers wanted to establish a welfare state in Pakistan. Has the state taken steps to develop a framework of a model welfare state in Pakistan remains to be seen. In the next section we will glance over some of the key aspects of state’s performance in meeting its obligations as laid out in the PoP.
One of the more exhaustive sections of this report deals with the implementation of Article 31, i.e. promotion of Islamic way of life in Pakistan. It provides interesting data on state activities facilitating citizen’s efforts to follow Islamic norm and practices. These include arranging visits to sufi shrines in India, arranging for Haj facilities, using zakat to help the needy through various institutions and schemes. In the year 2010-11, the government also organized a few ulema conferences with the aim to promote and develop understanding of Islam.
This report mentions several important developments concerning the implementation of Article 34, i.e. protection of women in national life. An important institutional contribution in this regard is the establishment of a special Ombudsperson’s office devoted to the welfare of women especially providing a forum where complaints of sexual harassment could be reviewed and filed. This was one of the most impressive steps taken in the year 2010-2011 to fulfill government’s responsibility towards women. As it is an infant institution, the report so far only mentions the composition and personnel affiliated with Ombudsperson’s office. Another law concerning women is the Acid Control and Acid Crime Bill. This law was finally approved by the national parliament in May 2011. It attempts to take stern action against those criminals who commit acid crimes against women. Such cases occur with too much frequency in Pakistan and are widely reported in the media. With the introduction of Acid Control and Acid Crime Bill, severe punishments ranging from fourteen years to life imprisonment are to be given to guilty individuals. It is hoped that these measures will lead to some reduction in violence against women. The future reports should provide greater details on the enforcement of these laws. In another area, the present report provides good statistics and figures collected from various sources on the number and acts of violence against women. It is generally believed that these figures are always conservative estimates of the actual violence that the women face in Pakistan. This report does a good job at collecting and presenting date on violence against women that will enable policy-makers, bureaucrats, governments, activists and researchers to develop an understanding of the reality on the ground.
The report on Implementation of PoP covers Article 36 very briefly. This article deals with the state of Pakistan’s efforts to protect minorities. However, very little information is given on the subject. There are some governmental initiatives that have been mentioned in the report such as the establishment of Minorities Welfare Fund by the government which is endowed with the task of helping minorities attain socio-economic development. It is observed that the report sheds light on very few programs undertaken by the government for the welfare of minorities. It could be speculated that the scant information might be an outcome of limited action taken by the state on the ground. The Article 39 on participation of people in armed forces is covered in some detail by the report. Interestingly, the report gives figure and demographic data on number of citizens who joined Pakistani Navy and Air Force during 2010-11 but remains silent on the new recruitments into Pakistan Army. This is a very crucial point that should be covered in future reports since the Pakistani Army is one of the most important institutions in the power structures of Pakistan. More information about this institution will only help to develop and appreciate the workings and policies of this key institution.
The report on Implementation of PoP also covers the practice of Article 38 that focuses on promotion of social and economic development in the country by the state of Pakistan. It provides details of different new schemes and initiatives launched by the PPP government in 2010-11. A detailed analysis of the New National Narcotics Policy is provided in the document. Moreover the launch of new National Housing Policy that aims to provide housing to low-income families is also mentioned here. The largest section of the report deals with the foreign policy of Pakistan. Spread over approximately 70 pages, this huge section looks at the practice of foreign and diplomatic relations. It is generally descriptive in nature providing basic information on bilateral and multilateral engagements that Pakistan undertook during 2010-11.
The Report on Implementation of Principles of Policy is a positive step in the direction of greater accountability and good governance in Pakistan. It is in line with constitutional requirements set out in Article 29 for the bureaucracy to inform and educate the parliament of Pakistan about the progress made in achieving goals set out in PoP. The report is a good collection of facts and figures on certain areas of PoP. It is rich in detail at different points, enabling the future researchers, academics and activists to engage in an honest and fair appraisal of governmental performance.
From an information standpoint the report is a very good effort in presenting some basic facts about the governmental performance. However, it is highly descriptive in nature. Facts are provided while the analysis is completely lacking. For future reports, there should be greater attention devoted to the analysis and understanding of these facts. This depends on providing the necessary training to governmental officials entrusted with the task of producing similar reports. The report-generators should be trained to develop basic research and methodological skills. It will go a long way in improving the quality of these reports.
In line with Article 29 of the Constitution, the parliament is entitled to receive a report on implementation of PoP on a yearly basis. We see that this report is the only one that has come about in the last four years. It is highly recommended that the there should be a regular and continuous compilation and presentation of such reports. These reports must be produced on an annual basis. They provide a good beginning for an evaluation of state’s efforts to fulfill its responsibilities as laid out in PoP.
The future research reports should focus more on practice, implementation and exercise of power concerning the PoP. The current document details different facts, laws and launch of new initiatives. The future reports should take this process forward by highlighting the performance on the ground. Hence a substantive part of discussion should deal with policy implementation, its successes and failures. Lastly, the future reports should give sufficient information on all aspects of PoP. This report gives unequal coverage to different provisions of PoP. For instance, the section on foreign policy covers 70 pages while there is very little information given on minority issues. A glaring omission from this report is local government. There is absolutely no information given on progress made on development of local government laws. Better reporting and more reporting is needed in this regard. To sum up, the report on Implementation of Principles of Policy is a good start to develop a culture of official reporting and assessment. It is hoped that in the coming years, the Pakistani state will publish and disseminate regular reports that will provide greater understanding of governmental performance.