Pakistan

‘Democracy will not work if it’s a top-down construct’

KARACHI: Vice President Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) Senator Sherry Rehman on Tuesday said democracy will not work if it’s a top-down construct.

“The government for the people, by the people is no more. It’s now government with the people,” she said while making a case for Pakistanis to take back their constitution in her opening keynote for the second day of the London School of Economics’ Pakistan Summit held at IBA Karachi.

Asserting on the importance of understanding the constitution, Sherry Rehman said, “For democracy to be meaningful, citizens must put it to use as a constitutional entitlement. We have very little sense of our entitlements. The Constitution is not a remote document but something which gives rights”.

Sherry said it is timely to be asking questions about the laws that govern our country and laws outside, even as borders harden. Mapping the fundamentals is important to the architecture of laws that govern us today.

“One core value that we must work on is inclusion. Pakistan is not a monolith and we have been managing our diversity pretty badly. Minority voices matter. All citizens must have equality in the eyes of the state,” she said.

She also highlighted the importance of detecting global trends, saying, “We are living in an era of profound change and social upheaval but we cannot disconnect. Our constitution needs to account for the three major global trends climate change, terrorism and accelerating digital usage”.

“There is nothing reversible about climate change, terrorism knows no borders and we do not know how to control the internet which is opening doors we do not know how to close. We need predictability, transparency and accountability in this digital age,” she said.

The senator said the 18th amendment refashioned the entire relationship with the center and the way resources were distributed. It envisioned to strengthen federal units, national institutions and ensured that issues of public importance were resolved democratically at a local level. The RTI for instance, played a critical role in making the government less remote.

She said the nature of reform was extremely unwieldy and a fair amount of compromise and political consensus made the 18th amendment possible. Then President, Asif Ali Zardari, did not have to reduce the powers of the President but he did, she added.

“The PPP government restored the 1973 constitution and devolved all powers to the provinces to end the sense of deprivation in smaller provinces. It has become the party’s pledge and commitment to its manifesto and the people,” concluded Sherry Rehman.

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