Islamabad: No law can be self-sufficient; it needs an environment for actualization of its ideals and achievement of its objectives. The most important requisite, however, for a successful law is recognition, respect and support of the people whom it is meant to govern. This recognition, general acceptance and thus obedience cannot be acquired unless a law is commensurate with the social construct, common beliefs and collective objectives of the society. Legislators, therefore, have to show a clear understanding of indigenous values and reflect that they are equipped with the vision required for leading the country to the common objectives of the nation.
In an Institute of Policy Studies Task Force study, it was said that the total number of bills introduced in the National Assembly was 265; of which 179 were moved by private members and 86 by the government. Of these 265 bills, 41 were directly related to women. Private members have been more active and concerned with respect to problems faced by women and family. Of 86 bills presented by the government, only 6six (07%) were related to women; while bills35 (about 22%) of 160 private member bills addressed issues related to our subjectwomen and family and family. Of the total 265 bills, 80 became laws while out of 41 women-related bills 7 were enacted upon.
Female contribution in women-related private bills is 82 percent i.e. (29 of 35 bills).
Pakistan Peoples’ Party Parliamentarian is the largest political party with 125 MNAs. Number of private bills related to women and family is 14.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is the second largest party in the National Assembly and major opposition party with 91 members but its opposition does not reflect in the number of bills introduced by its members. PML-N members have moved only 4 bills on issues related to women.
Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) has 49 members 14 bills related to women.
Awami National Party (12 members) has introduced two bills and Mutahida Qaumi Movement (20 members) one such bill. The rest 87 members of the remaining six parties in the National Assembly did not make any contribution in this regard, only ANP introduced two bills.
During the period in study, parliament has enacted 81 laws, of which 7 are related to women and family. Of these seven enactments four were proposed by the Government while three of the private bills could make it through.
Interestingly, private bills have, at times, been submitted without proper research and attention. Some bills reflect unawareness from the whole framework of law while some others have failed to appreciate the realities of common life. Typographical and other mistakes of language on such a sensitive subject which should have been removed with a little more attention, show lack of necessary care and interest and professionalism.
Overall legislative performance better in terms of number of bills presented and enactments made.
Previous National Assembly (2002-2007) had enacted 38 laws, 81 laws have been made during tenure (2008-2013) of recent national Assembly.
Concern for the rights of women and realization of the problems faced by them is generally present. Issues related to women acquired more attention than other topics that came under discussion for legislation. But looking at the host of other problems and issues that the society and particularly women are faced with, one feels that the parliament could have done better in five years available to it; particularly when the spirit of cooperation and reconciliation prevailed and reflected in form of consensus on number of issues.
Legislators are expected to be vigilant and should not be carried away merely by the atmosphere created. They should be able to assess the problem, listen to all stakeholders and ensure to take care of all dimensions of the issue in question. Legislators need to equip themselves with proper understanding of issues and ability to analyze them in indigenous context. Unless they have established deep roots among general public and have a constant and effective connection with common citizens of the country they are likely to fall to the campaign of any pressure group which would not only mean that they will be ignoring real problems of Pakistani society but will also be adding to them. But above all, they should be self-motivated and able to lead the nation to general well-being and should not be motivated for action by external pressures.
Three women and family related bills could not become laws even after getting a nod from both Houses of the Parliament only because the National Assembly could not reconsider them after amendment made by the Senate. They could not be passed through joint sitting of the Parliament as well.
One thing that is not concerned merely with the members of Parliament rather the democracy as a whole is that the members of society should remain watchful of the performance of their representatives. They should audit of promises made and assurances given to the public by the political parties and it leaders. Consistent monitoring of performance of public representatives is vital in any parliamentary system. People who would forget about their rights after once casting their votes in election are more likely to remain deprived of such rights. Public representatives are answerable and responsible to the people at every moment of their term in office and not merely at the time of next elections.
One significant development to facilitate legislation has been made by establishment of Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS) through Act III of 2008. It seems that in most cases Parliamentarians have not bothered to avail the research facilities and technical assistance offered by PIPS.
For healthier parliamentary environment and as manifestation of real commitment towards its manifesto, every political party is expected to establish a think tank and technical support mechanism for their leadership and particularly those of their member who are tasked to represent masses.
Feudalism in the strict sense of the word may have withered away from many areas but it has created a mindset that prevails and reflects in the behaviors, rhetoric, and lifestyles, even in areas where it has apparently lost its existence. Reforms have to be made to move away from feudalistic culture.
A crosscutting feature of all the problems discussed or not discussed as part of this study in the country is poor governance. It is extremely important to focus on the role of Police, judiciary other public functionaries. Instead of adding pages to statute books, public servants and institutions have to be made responsive and responsible.
Legislation and national policies should be aimed at achieving the goal of harmonious society where class differences and feelings of deprivation are the minimum.
All members of society and most particularly the leadership must realize and remain mindful of the fact that family institution is the real source of strength in Pakistani society. Apart from legislation, the sacredness of marriage contract and the rights and responsibilities arising out of it need to be propagated and emphasized.
All efforts should be made to resolve social issues through mechanisms available within society. The Arbitration Council as provided in the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961 is a good model for settling family feuds.
The most important step that has to be ensured to guarantee the rights of all sections of society is greater awareness, sensitization, education and counseling.
Unless the members of family feel an urge from within themselves, no set of laws, how hard they may be, can convince them to abide by the rights of others. Public representatives and political leaders have a major role to play in this respect; not merely through legislation and administrative action but also by setting practical examples before the people. Once the rulers would start honoring law, justice and rights, these norms will spread to the society like corruption did in the past.