Performance Monitoring of Pakistan's National Assembly from the Citizens’ Perspective
Problems and Purpose
In Pakistan, beyond the electoral moment, there are very few non-partisan avenues for evaluating parliamentary performance. The Pakistani Parliament, with a unique history of military intervention, corruption and lack of accountability and transprency, currently faces a serious crisis of legitimacy. The project was initated to bridge the gap between democracy, in theory, and democracy in practice, by studying the downfalls and strenghts of a central instittion, the parliament. According the Inter-Parliamentary Union's "A Guide to Good Practice" on democracy in the 21st century, the strong parliametary functions is the key to healthy democracy as the institution embodies the will of the people as well as their expectations for responsiveness to their needs as a representative and legislative organ. PILDAT's reports focus on monitoring parliamentary performance in different ways, through the perspective of civil society, international standards and citizens. The aim of this project is to evaluate the performance of Pakistani parliament through an international critiria to identify priorities and strenghts. IPU also provides a comprehensive record of Pakistan's parliamentary structure, mandate and logistics in its archives to help many think tanks perform evaluations in its PARLINE database. PILDAT's annual report for the 13th National Assembly's performance revealed a decrease in almost every sector of legislative activity (attenance, questions asked, notices received etc.), failures in reforming the parliamentary budget process, failure to replace the dissolution of the National Accountability Bureau with an independent Accountability Commission, shortcoming in parliamentary control over military sector and little interest by Parliament in supporting the Executive's foreign policy agenda.
Background History and Context
This project was launched after the completion of Pakistan’s 13th National Assembly’s first ever 5 year term under a civilian President and an elected National Assembly, on March 16 2013. The aim of the project was to provide a different piece of the puzzle to the story of unsatisfactory performance results in its annual report. PILDAT implemented the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Evaluating Parliament: a Self-Assessment ToolKit for Parliaments which offers different mechanisms and experiments to evaluate:
- The representativeness of parliament
- Parliamentary oversight over the executive
- Parliament’s legislative capcity
- The transparency and accessibility of parliament
- The accountability of parliament, and finally
- Parliament’s involvement in international policy
The organization relies heavily on the standards for representative democracy and conceptual frameworks for measuring healthy democratic governance established by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). The IPU's work focuses on creating greater reflexive dialogue between parliaments across borders, between parliaments and citizens and within parliaments.
The project covers the period of March 17 2008 to March 16 2013. Working off of IPU’s framework, PILDAT created a ScoreCard to evaluate the Assembly’s representativeness, accountability, transparency, accessibility and effectiveness.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
This project was funded by PILDAT. The project received no funding support from Legislative Secretariats, MPs on national or provincial level. The Score Card questionnaire and the project itself was inspired and instituted in and through the performance measurement evaluation toolkits created by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The evaluation was completed by a diverse group of former members of the National Assembly from various political parties, journalists who cover National Assembly proceedings and key analysts from different fields. The group consisted of 11 former MNAs from the 13th National Assembly and 21 non-parliamentarians consisting of news reporters for major news organizations, former judges, CEO of the Family Planning Association of Pakistan, former Foreign Secretary, Managing Director of Lahore Stock Exchange among others.The participants were selected by PILDAT as representatives of civil society, as well as experts on parliamentary reform.
Methods and Tools Used
The project was implemented through a Scorecard questionnaire developed by the Interparliamentary Union. The toolkit mentions 6 ficitional scenarios of evaluaiton, one of which is the parliament is assessed by an NGO or think tank.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
A power point presentation by Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan,Faisal Karim Kundi, created on October 22, 2009, notes that PILDAT initiated the process "by taking Assembly leadership into confidence & requesting him to be a part of the evaluation group" and that there was "Broad-based participation due to Multi-party legislators".
The ScoreCard, designed by IPU, was distributed to a group of MPs and Citizens’ groups with the aim of capturing the citizen’ perspective on parliamentary performance and builing a relationship between legislators and citizens in the reform process. The scorecard has four vital parts:
- How to use the toolkit
- Pre-evaluation checklist
The pre-evaluation checklist for organizers asks them to clarify process, aims and participants of the project, as well their vision for how to use the results and the timeframe for output. The performance evaluation is then calculated from the Score Card’s and scores are based on the value judgment of an Evaluation Group consisting of multi-party members of the Assembly being evaluated, journalists who cover the proceedings of an Assembly and analysts who keep their eyes on the performance of the Assembly.
In particular, those who completed the Scorecard include: 28 – member group assembled to evaluate; 14 Parliamentarians from 5 political parties or groups; 2 veteran parliamentary reporters; 3 senior academics; ;2 senior journalists ;2 lawyers; ;1 former military commander ;2 PILDAT staff.
The method of evaluation requires participants to answer questions that relate to the nature and work of the legislature. The ScoreCard has 44 questions in 6 different topics. These questions, 44 in total and covering the sub-areas mentioned above and are answered on a scale of 1-5, with 1 as the minimum and 5 as the maximum score. PILDAT averaged the scores assigned by the Evaluation Group and converted them in percentages.The Annexes section includes a definition criteria of representatives, fairness etc. in parliamentary procedures, a lined section for qualitative commentary in essay format on questions that can not be included in the 1-5 scale and a final section to include written commentary on proposed reforms, critiques beyond the questions.
The questions are organized under comprehensive sub-areas under each of the six topics. For example, the category of representativeness includes measures for:
- Diversity of representation
- Women’s representation
- Representation of marginalized groups and regions
- Electability of a person of average means
- Internal party arrangements to ensure balanced representations,
- Freedom to the opposition
- Infrastructure of the National Assembly of Pakistan
- Freedom and security for dissenting members and finally
- Assembly’s effectiveness for debate on questions of public concern
The reports of the results were then published and sent to media, government, legislative leadership and MPs through a roundtable discussion and online. The roundtable discussion consisted of the group meeting in a conference room setting and discussing the process, the questions and the results.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Critical outcomes achieved through this project include the introduction of a collaborative approach to performance measurement, as well as creating another platform to empower the voice of citizens’ groups in legislative reforms beyond the electoral platform. The process itself is also educative and helps citizens learn more about the inner mechanics of parliament, inspires communication and self-reflexivity between MPs and provides facts, numbers and data to help citizen’s establish fact-based critiques of government performance. In terms of the data, the 13th National Assembly achieved an overall score of 49%, 53% score for transparency, legislative capacity and representativeness and 41% score for both effectiveness in foreign policy and accountability. The powerpoint by the Deputy Speaker notes that the following policy and parliamentary reform reccomendations were calculated:1.Election Spending Limits be strictly enforced2.Make Parliament’s role effective in Budget Process3.Parliament should scrutinise key appointments4.Provide adequate and non-partisan research service5.Institute system of public consultation6.Attract young people to work in the Parliament7.Involve citizens in legislative process8.Institute a system to check members’ conflict of interest9.Adequate oversight on funding to parties & candidates10.Institute a system to monitor levels of public confidence11.Parliamentary Committees on Foreign Affairs be more pro-active
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Though the project and PILDAT's rhetoric claims to capture the citizens’ perspective, its definition and selection of citizen participants is quite thin and applies only to elite members of media, business and the Judiciary. Instead of the citizens’ perspective, the project lays greater claim to engaging elite members of civil society, members of parliament and senior bureacrats.. The project organizers do not clarify the significance of collecting the parliamentary evaluations of former MNAs, as citizens, versus current MNAs. The roundtable discussion also proved to be a successful opportunity for MPs to become answerable for their performance measurements to the media, each other and other members of civil society.
A vocal critic of the project's results and its use of the ScoreCard method to measure parliamentary performance is the National Democratic Foundation (NDF).NDF argues that the methodology could've been more "scientifically sound". It published a review of their report which could not be found on their website.