5 Mar 2017
Writer: Mohammad Reza Gulkohi

MPs have a duty to people

On March 5, Members of Parliament (MPs) are returning from their winter vacations. Where did the lawmakers go during the holidays, what did they do?
Abdul Qader had travelled from the insecure province of Ghazni to Kabul last year to meet his MP who he thought could solve his problems. But that experience has meant he has stayed home this year. "I traveled last year to Kabul to see the MP to solve my problem but when I reached Kabul I heard that the MP had gone abroad on tour."
It was intended that lawmakers should return to their constituencies in the winter break to meet people and address their grievances but that is seldom the case. As civil society activist Roya Arzo wrote in an open letter to all MPs. "Even if you don't go to your constituents at least stay at home and office (in Kabul) so that you are available to people who will come to you and you will be acquainted with their problems."
Arzo's open letter to MPs has been published in the media. She writes, "We (voters) did fulfill our (democratic) responsibility by exercising our vote but our busy representative (MP) … vanished after he entered Parliament and we could see his blessed face only on TV channels … For six years I have not seen my representative near us so I could share my pain and talk about the problems of people; the pain that I have suffered in various government offices and (at) different social and political levels of this land."
Political observers are of the view that some MPs make security a pretext to avoid visiting their constituencies. Do they consider their security more important than that of their voters who are as vulnerable, people ask. There are MPs who have not been to their constituency since they were voted in. The public are no fools, says Ali Reza Hasani, socialist and lecturer in Gharjestan University. He thinks it is necessary that the role and performance of an MP, and also all institutions and organisations, be closely evaluated to ensure there is no deviation from planned agendas. "Continuing monitoring is an undeniable need and all pillars (of a democracy) should be involved. Parliament is an institution formed by representatives of people. It is the proper place to manage the big monitoring (of government) while people and civil society monitors Parliament," says Hasani.
Keeping track
FEFA or the Free & Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan has published its evaluation of Parliament's functioning in 2016. Parliament improved on its performance over the previous year in monitoring the law and the government but it was not successful in representing the people. Some MPs reason the performance of Parliament in monitoring was weak due to flouting of the law and indifference of the government to decisions of MPs.
To many observers lawmakers in Parliament are not willing to hand over their position to other suitable individuals through a transparent electoral process. The term of MPs has de facto been extended since a year on the basis of a verbal decree of President Ashraf Ghani. Public opinion is for pressure to be put on the executive to crank start the election machinery including the Independent Election Commission to hold parliamentary polls this year.
Mohammad Sharif Hatef, political analyst, reminds MPs their duty is not only to highlight the condition of people but also draft strategies to strengthen democratic processes including the holding of free and fair elections, and also bridging the gap between government and people.

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