ISLAMABAD: The Senate launched on Tuesday a one-of-its-kind public petition system portal, making the Upper House just a click away from public access through the first phase of Restoration of Majesty and Transparency in Parliament.
“It is about time to showcase the brighter side … the e-petition would connect the people with Parliament,” said Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani at the launching ceremony.
The public petition process allows ordinary citizens to have direct access to the Senate and participate in the political process. It will raise awareness and put issues on the agenda, which might not otherwise be considered by Parliament. It can also facilitate Senate’s intervention in addressing issues and problems of public importance.
To give an opportunity to people who do not have access to the internet, the option of ‘courier petition’ is also available.
About 10 staffers of Senate would sift through the petitions round the clock on a system indigenously developed by Senate, said Rabbani while talking to The Express Tribune.
Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq said the initiative was a beacon of hope for people as it provides them an opportunity to share the issues being faced by them.
“People do not really care when democratic system is wrapped up by dictators because of the disconnect with institutions and Parliament … through this initiative people would have ownership of Parliament and a sense of belonging,” he added.
Leader of the Opposition in Senate Aitzaz Ahsan said, “Perhaps this cell owould work most efficiently in the next 10 years as people would reach Parliament after click of millisecond.”
How to submit a petition?
The petition should contain the basic information, including the name, CNIC, postal address, email, mobile and landline number of the petitioner. The text must concisely state what action the petitioner wants Parliament to take; should provide addition information relevant to the petition and the reasons why he/she considers a requested action necessary.
Moreover, the petitioner must also provide a summary of the action the petitioner has taken to resolve the issue, indicate if he/she is willing to appear before a competent authority and that the matter is not pending before any court or judicial authority.
Once the petition is successfully submitted, the IT branch of the Senate Secretariat would send an e-acknowledgment to the petitioner, and assign a tracking number.
Admissibility of the petition
A criteria has been laid down according to which the legislation branch will assess all e-petitions against conditions of admissibility, including that it should be addressed to the Senate chairman; shall state the grievance sought to be remedied by the Senate; relate to a matter primarily the concern of federal government; should not be offensive or contain defamatory statements; shall not relate to a matter which is secret or sensitive and not be more than 500 words.
The IT branch shall retrieve public petitions from the website and after checking the initial filters, and forward the print out to the legislation branch. The legislation branch will then examine the petitions under the conditions of admissibility and then segregate into three heads for submission to chairman.
Procedure for Senate polls to be reviewed
Rabbani also announced that the Senate should give suggestions regarding changes in its election procedure. In last month’s Senate polls, there were allegations of use of money with some parties demanding change in procedure and the government was all set to introduce a constitutional amendment.
“The issue would be taken up in next business advisory committee and then a decision would be taken whether a debate should take place in the house or not,” he added.