What's the point of having Question Hour: Pakistani daily

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 08, 2013 06:50 hrs

Islamabad, Feb 8 (IANS) Pakistanis may aspire to democracy, but those who run the country would prefer that democracy remains a worthless badge, said a daily after research showed that 75 percent of questions asked during Question Hour in Sindh assembly went unanswered.

An editorial in the News International noted that an important part of a truly democratic parliamentary structure is 'Question Hour', during which members of parliament question ministers and civil servants as to the work of their offices and departments.

"This is the baseline process of accountability and recognised as such wherever parliamentary systems are in place."

The findings of a research carried out by Arif Mustafa Jatoi, a member of the Sindh Assembly, are "troubling".

The findings show that "not a single question was answered about human rights violations in five years. This, given the bloody upheavals of Karachi alone, is beyond the incredible".

"The population department answered six questions in five years. Sindh has one of the highest population growth rates in the world, with implications for food security, potable water availability, housing, health and education and a host of other matters not deemed important enough to receive an answer to the questions asked," said the daily.

The numbers speak for themselves.

"There were 11,088 questions asked until November 26, 2012. They got 3,056 answers from ministers, about 26 percent. Thus, three-quarters of the questions asked by legislators got no answer from departments that are often headed by highly educated and supposedly competent ministers and civil servants."

The editorial went on to say that it is clear that ministers and civil servants are "in effect blinding both the legislature and the public at large" regarding their performance - or lack of it.

"Our political system tends to be democratic in name only, and considerably less so in its practical application. One might wonder as to how many unanswered questions there would be if a similar exercise were to be conducted in other provincial assemblies, as well as in the federal parliament.

"We may aspire to democracy, but those who run the country would prefer that democracy remains a worthless badge, rather than the mantle of dignity it should be," it added.

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