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 for 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 support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and in partnership with the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the Institute for Public Opinion Research (IPOR), NDI is working with Pakistan’s political parties as they develop policies that respond to the concerns of grassroots party members and local communities. Through this program, party members -- with a particular focus on women and young people -- work with party leaders and civil society groups to identify policy priorities, seek member input and draft policies for the consideration of their members and leaders.
This program opens space for discussion between party leadership, party activists and civil society through a democratic policy development process. It assists parties in creating research and training units, strengthening internal party structures and improving communication skills among leaders and activists. NDI introduced this bottom-up policy development framework designed to give voice to grassroots political leaders and activists in the Pakistani policy making processes. By providing structural opportunities for political party members at all levels to participate in shaping the parties’ platforms, parties 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 Young People
To promote the political and civic participation of women in FATA, NDI is implementing a program with support from the U.S. Department of State to facilitate dialogue among women leaders and activists across FATA to increase women’s civic and political participation at the community level. The Institute provides technical assistance to women activists to increase awareness and engagement among women in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Program participants have implemented individual outreach projects, including registration of women voters in FATA and facilitating girls’ enrollment in schools.
With support from the Norwegian government, NDI initiated programs to promote the participation of women and young political leaders in the 2013 national and provincial elections. The Institute helped participants develop skills to enable them to contribute to election planning and campaigns, and organize a pre-election women’s symposium for more than 100 women leaders from ten political parties.
The Institute also organized a campaign management academy for young organizers, which provided support for young people selected as campaign managers for political parties and candidates. NDI also conducted a young voter engagement media campaign to promote the active participation of young people in the 2013 elections.
With funding from the Dutch government in 2008, NDI implemented programs to help reform political party secretariats. The Institute worked with members of women and youth wings of political parties to develop and implement advocacy strategies to promote their inclusion in party decision making and policy development. This assistance has helped increase political skills among women and young people in campaign fundraising, internal and external communications, member recruitment and advocacy for greater leadership roles within the party. As a result of NDI programming and women’s wing advocacy campaigns, some parties have agreed to reserve seats on party decision making bodies for women.
Supporting Political Reform in FATA
In FATA, residents remain politically and economically marginalized and lack the fundamental rights enjoyed by citizens in the rest of Pakistan. Following the extension of the Political Parties Order in August 2011, political parties are able to operate legally in FATA. Both secular and religious parties fielded candidates and campaigned in all FATA constituencies during the 2013 elections for the first time in Pakistan’s history. While gradual progress has been made, several points on the consensus FATA reform agenda remain unfulfilled as FATA parliamentarians, political parties, civil society and citizens continue to advocate for further political reform.
Since 2009, NDI has conducted programs to engage political parties and tribal representatives on policies for political reform in FATA, bringing more than 500 tribal leaders, ten political parties and FATA parliamentarians together to determine reform priorities. In January 2009 and July 2013, tribal representatives presented recommendations directly to President Asif Ali Zardari with NDI support, which contributed to the president’s August 2009 announcement of a FATA reform package.
Since 2010, NDI has supported the Political Parties Joint Committee on FATA Reforms (FATA Committee). The ten mainstream political parties represented on the FATA Committee 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, extending Pakistan’s Political Parties Order to the tribal areas and making the first significant amendments of FATA’s Frontier Crimes Regulation in more than 100 years. Continuing efforts also contributed to the establishment of a new government commission on FATA reform and the introduction of reform legislation in parliament in 2014. Reformers continue to advocate for elected local government in FATA, separation of local judicial and executive powers and amendment of the Constitution of Pakistan to empower Pakistan’s parliament to legislate for the tribal areas.
Regional and national political party leaders meet with local FATA leaders to advocate further reform in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Prior to 2013 general elections, NDI produced 12 candidate radio forums which aired throughout the tribal areas. These first-ever FATA candidate debates featured 63 independent and political party candidates for the National Assembly from every FATA constituency.
Also in 2013, NDI started a parliamentary associates program for young graduates from the tribal areas to learn new skills while assisting FATA parliamentarians. The Institute works with associates and legislators to develop skills in communications, research, outreach, planning and constituency relations. As a result of these efforts, the reform dialogue has expanded to include citizens, legislators and political party leaders, including women and young people in FATA.
Support from the U.S. Department of State allows the Institute to assist women from FATA in strengthening leadership, community building and networking skills, in addition to encouraging women to have a greater role in their communities and ensuring women’s voices are heard in reform and other civic dialogue in FATA. Support from the Department of State also allows NDI to increase opportunities for FATA residents to interact with their elected representatives in parliament. With support from the British government, NDI continues to work with political parties, parliamentarians and local leaders to promote implementation and public awareness of FATA reforms and to arrive at consensus on additional reform priorities.
Supporting the Electoral Process
With funding from USAID, NDI organized an international observation mission for Pakistan’s May 2013 National and Provincial Assemblies elections 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 and visited more than 250 polling locations in Punjab and Khyber Pakthunkhwa to follow opening, voting, closing and counting procedures. Security concerns prevented direct observation in Balochistan and FATA.
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) made efforts to respond to recommendations presented earlier by domestic groups and international organizations, including 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 and correct reports of incidents where women were barred from voting. 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, 2007 and 2012, NDI organized pre-election delegations 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. NDI has 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, Deputy Director for Asia Programs