Dr. Paula Newberg discusses Democracy, History and the Role of Judiciary in Pakistan at IBA


January 20' 2016: IBA welcomed Dr. Paula Newberg for a speaker session in the very first week of the new semester, Spring 2016. Dr. Framji Minwalla, Chairperson of Social Sciences IBA, introduced the prestigious guest to the audience comprised of students and the faculty members of IBA.

Dr. Paula Newberg's work focuses on the intersections between human rights, democratic governance and foreign policy in crisis and transition states, with particular focus on South and Central Asia. A scholar and practitioner with wide-ranging experience in multilateral and nongovernmental organizations, Dr. Newberg served as Special Advisor to the United Nations in Asia, Europe and Africa. She was a Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she co-founded its Democracy Project, and was a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution. Prior to joining UT-Austin, she was the Director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. Dr. Newberg has written extensively on constitutional development and jurisprudence in Pakistan, the politics of assistance in and to conflict and post-conflict states, and rights in conditions of insurgency.

Dr. Newberg got the ball rolling by expressing her views over relationship between Law and Politics and how constitutions play vital role in a country's development. She also shed light over the challenging history of Pakistan discussing era Martial law and democracy. While talking about Judiciary in Pakistan, she underscored that we must analyze the judiciary from a larger perspective of post-colonial states, where courts have often taken on a larger role. She did shed light on her concern that the court have become very much an interventionist court with opinions on almost every aspect of life. The unanimity of opinion among the judges of the apex court was also significant, she noted.

In order to set about true political change Dr. Newberg stated that there needs to be serious strategic reforms in the structure of Pakistan. She argued that "Pakistan, more than almost any of the former British colonies, has hewed into a state structure that so much resembles what it inherited from the British that it becomes almost useless for a modernizing, rapidly-growing, proto-industrial society." Pakistan, Dr. Newberg explained, still relies on a centralized system, where the budget is organized from the center and then devolves to the provinces in an inequitable manner. She argued that "this means that some people's citizenship is devalued and other people's citizenship is overvalued." The only way to change this is to reconfigure the structure of governance in the country by introducing an equitable taxation system and building local governances from the bottom up. Dr. Newberg concluded that until such time that this structure is altered; problems of governance and foreign policy will be replicated, over and again.

She later shifted her focus towards the amendments in Pakistan's constitution and its repercussions and how these specific changes have resulted in the current situation of the country. The talk took an interesting turn when she accepted drafting history is crucial and significant. She mentioned that one of the major attributes of history is that it's biased. Dr. Newberg concluded her lecture and floor was opened for students and faculty to put their queries across. The session eventuated as Dr. Framji Minwalla presented a token of appreciation to the guest for the immense amount of knowledge she shared.

By: Huda Irfan (BSSS - III)