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ISLAMABAD: Lack of awareness among the public regarding the importance and functions of parliament is creating a gap between parliament and society, speakers at a seminar on the ‘Parliament Society Nexus’ said on Monday.

The public must study and learn the Constitution, which is a social contract between the state and its citizens, speakers at the seminar hosted by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) said.

Knowledge about their rights and the Constitution will help citizens know their basic rights and revive their confidence in parliament which is the custodian of their basic human rights.

“Today’s parliament is much weaker than ever before mainly because of growing disconnect between parliament and civil society,” said former senator Afrasiab Khattak, a senior leader of the Awami National Party.

Pakistan’s parliament is a case of retarded development as there was continued disruption in the democratic process in the past, he said.

Mr Khattak added that there is need for developing a culture of tolerance so everyone can openly debate issues of public concern.

“We should all strive for the rule of the law and supremacy of the Constitution and I would like to reiterate that the public should study the Constitution in order to bridge the gap between the state and society,” Mr Khattak said.

SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qayum Suleri said there is a rise in polarisation in Pakistani society and that building consensus among all segments has become a major challenge.

He urged the government to revive student unions, which will help strengthen the relationship between parliament and society.

“Parliament should uphold human values and build consensus on societal issues,” he said, adding that there are renewed expectations among the general public and the incumbent government should engage with all stakeholders.

PML-N MNA Romina Khurshid Alam said there is a big communication gap between society and parliament and that the youth is especially disconnected and does not know about the significance of parliament.

She stressed on the need for strengthening the relationship between the civil society and parliament and said that civil society can be instrumental for pro-people legislation.

Civil society member Harris Khalique said parliament is currently very weak and it is challenging for it to meet expectations yet.

He said parliament needs to strengthen itself through legislation and the functioning of parliamentary committees, which will help restore confidence among the general public.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2018