By ROBERT MANDER
Eager to bring international attention, especially U.S. attention, to a recently enacted amendment to its Constitution, a visiting delegation of Pakistani parliamentarians was encouraged to disseminate the information through the Law Library's digital Global Legal Information Network (GLIN).
At a briefing hosted by the Law Library of Congress on April 26, the Pakistani delegates expressed the need to inform world legislators of the enactment of the 17th amendment to the Pakistan Constitution, which deals with several procedures involving the presidency, judiciary and previous laws.
Janice Hyde, program officer of GLIN, explained that GLIN enables legislators to post legislation "as fast as you can enact it" for worldwide dissemination. Hyde emphasized to the delegates that GLIN maintains a unique standard of reliability to assure users that a posting on the GLIN Web site is "an exact digital replica of the official law." On behalf of the Law Library, she formally invited Pakistan to become GLIN's first South Asian member, an area of the world that is currently being watched for legal developments.
The Pakistani delegation is touring several U.S. government agencies and facilities as part of a project called "Strengthening Legislative Governance in Pakistan," whose purpose is to "improve the transparency, accountability and competency of the legislative branch while establishing constructive links between legislative bodies, civil society and citizens." The project is managed by World Vision, a private, nonprofit organization, under a three-year, $14 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). World Vision is one of six partners that make up the Pakistan Legislative Strengthening Consortium (PLSC), an umbrella group that structures and coordinates activities under the initiative.
The delegation was in the United States to introduce the Pakistani legislators to the role that research services play in the American legislative process. Heading the delegation of five top legislative officials was Chaudhry Amir Hussain, speaker of Pakistan's National Assembly. Other visitors included Saleem Mahmood, secretary of the National Assembly, and, representing the Senate side of the Pakistani Parliament, Shahid Iqbal, secretary, and Iftikhar ullal Babar, joint secretary. Also attending were Sohail Khan, first secretary to the Pakistan Embassy, and Hanif M. Akhtar, president of the Pakistan-American Business Association.
Kersi Shroff, chief of the Law Library's Western Law Division, who spearheaded contacts with Pakistani legislators during a recent fact-finding mission to Islamabad, assured the delegates that U.S. legislators are regularly informed of important legislation enacted in Pakistan. Asked about a recently enacted electronic data law in that country, Shroff pointed to a Law Library report to Congress that included the new legislation. He added that a recent major multinational report to members of Congress on international terrorism included important Pakistani legislative actions on this issue of global concern.
Welcoming the legislators, Rubens Medina, Law Librarian of Congress, described to the delegates the Law Library's mission "to open doors and windows of information on the importance of all the world's laws." W. Gary Sharp Sr., director of Legal Research, provided the delegates with an overview of the Law Library's mandates to serve all three branches of government with comparative legal research.
Krishan Nehra, the Law Library's senior legal specialist for Pakistan, pointed to the Law Library's sizeable collection of original Pakistani legal documents and discussed the Law Library's ability to draw on its extensive legal collections to respond to questions from members of Congress and other government leaders about high-visibility issues such as minorities, human rights and Islamic law. The Pakistani legislators also visited the Library ‘s Congressional Research Service and the U.S. State Department.
The National Assembly is one of the two legislative bodies in Pakistan's bicameral Parliament established under the nation's 1973 constitution. Elections for the current National Assembly were held in October 2002, and members serve five-year terms. The legislative bodies of Pakistan had been suspended through a Proclamation of Emergency issued by President Pervez Musharraf, but in May 2000 the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that the military regime must hand over control to an elected government in three years. Since the 2002 elections, the assembly's 217 popularly elected and 10 religious minority members have convened according to the constitution's provisions.
Pakistan is an Islamic Republic with a population of more than 130 million.
Robert Mander is a writer-editor in the Law Library of Congress.