ISLAMABAD: A young legislator seeking to boost participation in politics and civic affairs is utilizing the internet as a platform in Pakistan to address problems his constituents face.
The idea, says Senator Osman Saifullah Khan, came from the US legal system; “I’ve modelled a website on sites maintained by US legislators,” Saifullah says, explaining that American congressmen and senators address the public’s day-to-day concerns via feedback received through these sites.
Saifullah, represents the district of Islamabad in the Upper House of parliament on behalf of the Pakistan Peoples Party. The city, according to the senator, is a fertile virtual ground, with a higher than average rate of literacy and Internet penetration. “My website allows me to seamlessly and economically connect with people and it enables them to get in touch with me easily,” he explains.
“After I launched the site, I have been approached by different organizations seeking my intervention in matters of public policy and governance,” Saifullah says, adding, “I have received representations regarding Internet policy and censorship as well as representations from citizens in Islamabad complaining about the inaction of the Capital Development Authority on a variety of matters.”
The complaints cover a range of issues, most recently including the CDA’s failure to remove trees responsible for Islamabad’s record-breaking pollen counts.
The grandson of former president Ishaq Khan, Saifullah was born in Peshawar. “I am a fourth generation parliamentarian,” he says, “and I’ve grown up seeing members of my family discharging their duties as public representatives of the people of Lakki Marwat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”
“We need to attract intelligent, hard-working young men and women to the civil service,” Saifullah feels, “and I would tell Pakistanis who have been as fortunate as I have that if we want our children to be safe and prosper, we need to create a society that is more equitable.”
Saifullah told The Express Tribune that he would like to be regarded as a problem-solver. “Too often people in Pakistan hold parliamentarians in low regard,” he says, “and all of us have a duty to conduct ourselves in a manner that changes this perception.”
His long term goal includes achieving literacy in the country up to the secondary school level and to push for a quality of education that places Pakistan amongst the top ten literate countries in Asia.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2014.