Pakistan is on the path to an inclusive democracy after 2013 saw the first ever transition of power between civilian governments at the federal level.

But the country’s democratisation remains unfinished business and this is a critical time for Pakistan. Westminster Foundation for Democracy stands ready to support its parliaments at both federal and regional level.

The 18th Amendment to Pakistan’s constitution provides a big opportunity for the country, for local autonomy promises much for better governance, accountability and the protection and promotion of human rights. Despite these positive steps, however, the political heritage in Pakistan remains one where power is centralised. By working to create effective provincial assemblies that apply checks and balance on the federal state, Pakistan can build strong parliamentary systems which benefit all citizens.

WFD is uniquely placed to support this work, building on Britain’s historic links with Pakistan to offer assistance reflecting a range of experience that extends well beyond Westminster. Parliamentary experts from the Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly all understand the pitfalls of devolution as much as the advantages. By drawing on their expertise, WFD fosters greater understanding of the functions and mechanisms of devolved institutions.

From 2012 WFD partnered with the province of Punjab to help the Assembly better understand its roles and responsibilities in a devolved context. We built the capacity and confidence of members of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab, their parliamentary staff, standing committees and civil society organisations, so they were better placed to scrutinise legislation. On top of this WFD has supported the British Council’s ‘Improving Parliamentary Performance’ programme which aimed to strengthen the capacity of the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services, a federal-level institution. By providing support at both levels we hope to strengthen the relationship between the existing federal structure and relatively new provincial assemblies.

This model of support can be shared across Pakistan, helping parliamentarians perform their representative, legislative and oversight roles and responsibilities more effectively in a post-devolution context. Building a stronger understanding of provincial-federation institutional relationships and mutual experience is essential for the success of the devolution process. WFD can provide the support and expertise needed to help Pakistan’s institutions reach their goal of a consolidated democracy.

Featured image – flickr – Scott Larsen