Strengthening Political Parties
Pakistan faces critical challenges that require informed policies that respond to the needs of its citizens. The government’s ability to address these challenges has serious implications in terms of both Pakistan’s development and global security. As the country struggles with terrorism and economic stagnation, a failure to develop policies in a more informed and participatory manner could lead to public disenchantment with elected government, a return to military rule, and a greater voice for extremist elements in Pakistan society.
With funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and in partnership with the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Institute for Public Opinion Research (IPOR) and the Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO), NDI is working with Pakistan’s political parties as they develop policies that respond to the concerns of grassroots party members and local communities. This program gives voice to local leaders and activists who historically have been excluded from the parties’ policy making processes. NDI is helping parties to engage grassroots members and citizens in the policy development process, develop party research units and strengthen internal party structures. To this end, NDI has introduced a bottom-up policy development framework designed to give voice to grassroots leaders and activists in Pakistani political parties’ policy making processes. By providing structural opportunities for rank and file members at the district, provincial and the central level to participate in shaping the parties’ platforms, the parties can become more representative and responsive to citizen concerns.
Throughout the program, NDI and its subgrantees have placed a particular emphasis on elevating the participation and input of women, young people under the age of 35 and grassroots party members from the district level and below.
Political Participation for Women and Youth
To promote the political and civic participation of women in FATA, NDI is implementing a program with funding from the U.S. Department of State to facilitate dialogue among women leaders and activists across FATA to identify opportunities for women’s civic and political participation at the community level. The Institute is providing technical assistance to women activists to increase awareness and political activity among other women in FATA.
With support from the Norwegian government, NDI initiated programs to promote the participation of women and young political leaders in the lead up to the 2013 national and provincial elections. The Institute helped participants develop skills and experience to enable them to make a significant contribution to their parties’ election planning and campaigns. The 2013 Women’s National Campaign Academy assisted women political party activists with building campaign skills and leadership. In March 2013, NDI organized a pre-election women’s symposium for over 100 women leaders from 10 political parties that included cross-party dialogue and networking, as well as strategizing about how to overcome challenges facing women political activists.
The Institute also organized a Campaign Management Academy for Young Organizers, which prepared young organizers to serve as effective campaign managers or workers in the 2013 elections. The Young Campaign Manager Mentorship Program provided support for young people selected as campaign managers for political parties and candidates, and built on the skills developed in the training academy. NDI also conducted a young voter engagement media campaign to promote the active participation of young people in the 2013 elections. The campaign included radio, television and online advertisements in English, Urdu and local languages as well as the distribution of print materials and social media for use by young leaders on university campuses and other areas.
With funding from the Dutch government in 2008, NDI implemented programs to help reform party secretariats. The Institute worked with members of women and youth wings to develop and implement advocacy strategies to promote their inclusion in party decision making and policy development. This assistance has helped to increase political skills among women and young people in campaign fundraising, internal and external communications, member recruitment and retention, the development of work plans and advocacy for greater leadership roles within the party. As a result of this program and the women’s wing advocacy campaigns, some parties have agreed to reserve seats on the parties’ decision making bodies for women.
Promoting Political Reform in FATA
In FATA, residents remain politically and economically marginalized and lack the basic rights enjoyed by citizens in the rest of Pakistan. Following the extension of the Political Parties Order authorized by President Asif Ali Zardari in August 2011, political parties were able to operate legally in FATA. In a political playing field formerly dominated by independents and religious groups, both secular and religious parties fielded candidates and campaigned in all 12 FATA constituencies for the May 2013 elections for the first time in Pakistan’s history. While gradual progress has been made, several points on the FATA reform agenda remain unfulfilled. The beginning of a fresh term for a new government that includes newly elected MNAs from FATA offers unique openings for parties, civil society and FATA citizens to advocate for further political reform.
Since 2007, NDI has been conducting programs to engage political parties and tribal representatives on policies for political reform in FATA. NDI partnered with the Shaheed Bhutto Foundation (SBF) in support of these programs. More than 300 tribal representatives and 10 political parties have participated in a series of regional dialogues to determine reform priorities. In January 2009, more than 100 of these representatives presented their recommendations directly to President Asif Ali Zardari, which contributed to the president’s announcement on August 14, 2009, of a FATA reforms package.
Further meetings and discussions convened by NDI throughout 2010 led to the creation of the Political Parties Joint Committee on FATA Reforms. Under this body, mainstream political parties adopted a resolution in March 2011 calling on the president to implement reforms. On August 12, 2011, President Zardari signed two orders that authorized key reforms – the extension of Pakistan’s Political Parties Order of 2002 to the tribal areas and the amendment of FATA’s Frontier Crimes Regulation. Under the new orders, parties are permitted to form and operate in the tribal areas, fielding candidates in FATA under their party banners for the first time.
With funding from the British government, NDI is continuing to work with political parties, parliamentarians and local leaders to promote public awareness campaigns on FATA reforms as well as identify additional reform priorities and areas of consensus. The Political Parties Joint Committee for FATA Reforms has grown to include all 11 major political parties in Pakistan and a total of nine roundtables have resulted in consensus on a range of reform issues including local government and election reforms. As a result of the Institute’s efforts, the reform dialogue has expanded to include citizens, party leaders, women and young party activists from FATA. In cooperation with the Shaheed Bhutto Foundation, NDI has supported the establishment of citizen reform councils in all seven tribal agencies, the frontier regions, and with FATA students from universities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including one multi-sector FATA women’s reform council. Reform council recommendations will be the foundation for adopting a unified consensus on reforms which would serve as the basis for outreach with decision-makers at the national and provincial levels of government and the public.
Debate on reforms intensified prior to the 2013 general elections, when NDI produced twelve 55-minutes candidate radio forums which aired in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Mashaal Radio, the most popular radio station in FATA. These first-ever FATA candidate debates featured 63 independent and political party candidates for the National Assembly from all 12 FATA constituencies who talked with voters on a range of issues including peace, development, governance reforms, education, and the election campaign.
Supporting the Electoral Process
With funding from USAID, NDI organized an international observation mission for the May 2013 general elections for Pakistan’s National and Provincial Assemblies and provided nationwide training for party pollwatchers. The elections marked the first time in Pakistan’s history that an elected civilian government transferred power through a democratic process. NDI’s program included a pre-election assessment mission in December 2012 and long-term observation of the pre-election, election-day and post-election environments, as well as the deployment of short-term observers and a senior election day delegation during the immediate election period.
The NDI-ANFREL (Asian Network for Free Elections) international election observation mission consisted of 48 international observers from 18 countries visiting more than 250 polling locations in Punjab, Khyber Pakthunkhwaand followed opening, voting, closing and counting procedures. Security concerns prevented direct observation in Balochistan and FATA. However, the mission was in frequent contact with candidates, parties and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in those areas who were following election-related developments not directly accessible to the delegation. The NDI-ANFREL mission published a preliminary statement immediately following election day as well as a final report in September 2013 describing mission findings and recommendations.
In the lead up to the 2013 elections and during the immediate post-election period, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and other participants made efforts to respond to recommendations presented earlier by domestic groups and international organizations such as NDI to help strengthen the electoral process. In the pre-election period, these efforts included measures to: increase voter education; mobilize ECP monitoring teams to enforce electoral regulations and the codes of conduct; and broaden the use of mobile phone and social media technology to promote voter engagement. In the immediate post-election period, these efforts included measures to: initiate a post-election review of challenges experienced during the elections; improve security planning for re-polling; release polling station-level results and reconciliation forms; and investigate reports of incidents where women were barred from voting and take corrective measures. The Institute also conducted party pollwatching trainings across the country, training approximately 480 master trainers who helped train and prepare over 33,000 partisan pollwatchers across the country for the elections.
The Institute organized international delegations to observe the national and provincial elections in 1988, 1990 and 1993. In 1997, NDI sponsored a pre-election delegation to assess election preparations. In advance of the 2002 general elections, NDI organized nationwide training for over 1,200 party poll watchers. The Institute produced and distributed more than 550,000 poll watching manuals, which were widely used on election day. In May and October 2007, NDI organized pre-election assessment missions in advance of parliamentary and provincial elections. The Institute implemented a program that trained approximately 45,000 party polling agents to monitor polling stations. NDI also worked with political parties to provide advice on the design and implementation of a communication system for the collection and analysis of election results and complaints.
Publications Available in English and Urdu
For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:
Sandra Houston, Senior Resident Director
Raissa Tatad-Hazell, Washington-DC Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan Programs