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April 12, 2017

Strengthening parliament


April 12, 2017

Youth Parliament Pakistan, a project that was launched in 2007, had the basic purpose of engaging the youth of our country in healthy discourses on legislation, national and international affairs and the democratic processes and procedures of our country.

I applied for the 8th batch of the Youth Parliament Pakistan 2016. The procedure begins with filling an application form. The committee marks the answers to a set of questions the applicants respond to on the form. A list of potential participants is then compiled. The shortlisted candidates are then interviewed by a panel and present their educational documents and certificates to prove they have worked for a welfare organisation, NGO or were involved in political work.

After clearing the interview, the applicant receives a confirmation email. Last year, more than 4,000 candidates applied from all over the country. Around 1,400 made it to the interview and 240 others were selected for the 8th Youth Parliament Pakistan 2016.

On the first day, the procedure of voting for the leader of the house, the leader of the opposition and the deputy speaker took place in the same way as it is followed in the National.

During the sessions, we were taught about law, the constitution and electoral reforms. Specialists delivered lectures on relevant issues, answered queries and interacted with the members. They also taught us how to make resolutions and present them in the assembly. Within five days, we were divided into groups and made to work in different committees. We were assigned topics to make comprehensive reports about and present them in front of ambassadors and ministers.

Anyone who used foul language in the five days of the youth parliament would get their marks deducted. This would reduce their chances of entering the list of top 15 candidates and could even result in their immediate expulsion from the sessions.

Three things need to be emphasised regarding the Youth Parliament Pakistan. First, the procedure of selecting candidates on the basis of worth, values, capability, strength and motivation are criteria which are distinct from the electoral system of our parliament. Second, members of the youth parliament are taught different subjects to distinguish them from others. Third, if anyone wanted to disagree, he or she would do so but in a respectful manner.

We should adopt similar criteria to select the members of assemblies in Pakistan. Our parliamentarians should also be evaluated for their honesty, motivation, character, commitment, competence and ability to analyse a situation.

We need to strengthen our system of evaluation for those who wish to become the representatives of our people or we will never be able to nip nepotism and corruption in the bud. Party tickets should also not be allotted on the basis of biased judgements and personal relations.

In our parliamentary system, there are few opportunities for educated, competent and committed youth to get a chance have their voices heard. In Singapore, a degree from a top university, good public speaking or being a popular leader will not suffice to secure a party ticket. Character, motivation, integrity, emotional intelligence and the ability to assess situations are the key factors that are taken into account. All these parameters are measured through a holistic approach that includes interviews, keen observation and psychometric testing.

In Pakistan, almost every institution, except parliament, follows an effective selection procedure. The CSP officers also have to go through written tests and interviews before they can be selected. Those who wish to join the armed forces also have to go through a set of interviews and psychometric tests to assess their leadership quality and other important characteristics. 

Why can’t the politicians of Pakistan be put through similar evaluation criteria? If the youth have to pass through such a rigorous selection process to secure a place in the Youth Parliament Pakistan, why can’t parliament apply the same procedure for its members?

I am in no way against the democratic system of our country. We merely need to include an additional step in the system: selection before election. This involves evaluating the interested candidates on the parameters discussed above. The public should be able to trust the basic capabilities of our candidates before they vote for them.


The writer is an organisational psychologist.


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