ISLAMABAD: AwazCDS-Pakistan, in collaboration with the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), organized a dialogue at the Committee Room of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) to discuss and promote democracy in the nation. The dialogue focused on the need for a new Charter of Democracy (COD) to address the evolving political landscape and the challenges faced by Pakistan in upholding democratic principles.
In his opening remarks, AwazCDS-Pakistan Chief Executive Zia-ur-Rehman highlighted the current poor political and human rights situation in Pakistan. He emphasized the importance of the Charter of Democracy (COD), signed in 2006 by two major political parties, the PPPP and PMLN, in strengthening democracy in the country.
Zia-ur-Rehman argued that the changing political landscape, increased political polarization, and the emergence of new leadership in the country necessitated the development of a second-generation Charter of Democracy.
He believed that this new COD should encompass the demands for democracy, human rights, rule of law, and address unattended issues from the previous COD.
He said they also have witnessed that both the parties had sidelined the COD on several occasions during the last decade. Two institutions of the country had tracked the implementation of the COD during last 10 years including FES and Citizen Tracker institute also followed COD. The COD worked a little or more till 2012 but we have seen a silence over it from 2012 to this day and did not find any discourse over it”.
Mr Zia said Pakistan Development Alliance thought in 2022 to debate this COD issue, we tracked the issue and seen that 36 commitments were made in COD. There were 14 commitments about power imbalance between military and civilians and no work was done on these lines. Political parties and civil society also forget these points.
He said partially some 14 commitments were implemented by PPP and PMLN last governments while eight of the commitments were fully implemented and it resulted in bearing fruits.
He said they had conducted a meeting in October 2022, PFUJ president Afzal, around 22 members of civil society participated in their meeting and they suggested talking about a new charter of democracy.
Mr Zia said more than 80 people from different walks of life and renowned personalities had endorsed their draft and demand for new charter of democracy. “We are thinking that we should take this draft to provincial level and after having discourse and including their suggestion we should share it with political leadership of the country.”
He said they should also take it to district level to generate further discussion on the issue and should talk to political workers of the parties so that they could make a demand for the new COD. “We have included a clause about changing constitution clause which restricts a non-Muslim from becoming president and prime minister of the country on the demand of minority communities.”
He said they should also demand that founder of nation Muhammad Ali Jinnah August 11 speech should be included in the preamble of the constitution.
Human rights activist Husain Naqi said he had read the draft and talking about rule of law and balancing military and civilians authorities were contradictory to each other because ensuring rule of law means that military would have to work under the civilians.
While talking about a point of 10 percent women representation, he said that they should demand equal representation and this 10 percent demand would be very low.
HRCP Chairperson Hina Jillani said that all political parties which have electoral representation should be approached for new COD.
She said pressure should be raised on political parties to talk to the military establishment and civil society did not have to directly approach the military for the new COD.
She appreciated the thought of talking about the new COD but said that she could not endorse all the agenda as there was a demand of constitutional amendments and some other matters and they would have to look into the agenda carefully.
She said already lawyers, media and judges were interpreting every word of the constitution in their own languages.
SAP-Pk Muhammad Tahseen said that there was a need for new charter of democracy and they should have to include Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and SAARC countries issues in it.
He said they should all have to talk about equal citizenship and no one should be allowed to call others non-Muslim etc.
PFUJ president Afzal Butt said there was situation in the country now days and there were attacks on media and judiciary.
He said there was no free media, judiciary, human rights and freedom after May 9 incident and it would equal with a situation like in 1977. “We have started the struggle to ensure our voice should reach political parties,” he said.
Irfan Mufti said citizens have to give their non negotiable to political parties but they did not have given any in the past.
He said they would have to include citizenship rights, quality justice, equal citizenship right to everybody including minority, women or anyone, resource allocation on basic rights, basic education right and civic services in non negotiable in the new charter of democracy.
Neelum Hussain said there were lacunas in the document and it should be voice of the people. “We have to talk about food security and also include it in non-negotiable,” she said.
Rashid Rehman said there was a need to understand why a new charter was needed and they should have to tell the history why it was earlier devised.
He said during 1990s the political parties had played in the hands of establishment and it resulted in removing their governments by the presidents but they learned and during exile drafted the COD.
He said the establishment had failed to lure them for next 10 years at which the establishment launched Mr Imran Khan to counter the COD.
Advocate Saroop Ijaz said they would have to address the equal citizenship right and should include reversing second amendment in the constitution.
He said the citizens were facing persecution due to second amendment in the constitution of Pakistan and it would violate equal citizenship right.
Ahmadiyya Community spokespersons Aamir said that the state had made separate electorate for them and make them vulnerable by mentioning their religion with their names.
HRCP director Farah Zia said that they should have to first analyze the implementation of the first COD which was devised by two political parties and should also include more political parties for devising new COD.