1188243-keyboardxcopy-1474824295-849-640x480 (1)By: Faran Mahmood, a Cambridge graduate and management consultant. This article was originally published by The Express Tribune.

The recent attention to accountability, thanks to Panama Papers, has exposed contentious political fault lines that have emerged in the electoral system.


Though opposition parties have pitched a justified case for electoral reforms, the politics of getting it done have not changed.

It is a howling storm of misrepresentation as parliament lacks the political will to translate such commitments into substantive political reforms. Therefore, people on one side of the spectrum are trying to fix the system while the other side stands with the status quo.

However, the question is: Do people even know or care about electoral reforms? If yes, how can we actively engage them in the accountability process of elected reps?

According to the UK Department for International Development (DFID) 2013 survey, four-fifths of Pakistanis see corruption as rife. So the problem is not that the people are hearing nothing, it is that they are not really part of the equation.

All they hear is a warped version of reality round the clock with few venues that seek their feedback on issues of national interest. There is also the ‘squeezing the balloon’ problem where accountability goals of the government are flexible and could be adopted to divert attention.

This is where international development programmes like Making All Voices Count (MAVC) come into play.

With a focus on information and communications technologies for development (ICT4D) in general and accountability in particular, MAVC aims to empower small organisations at grass-roots level instead of a typical top-down approach to development that has failed every time to build sustainable capacity.

Success story

The Bahawalpur Service Delivery Unit is perhaps one of the biggest success stories of the MAVC programme in Pakistan.

Led by the DCO Bahawalpur, the project team built real-time dashboards to monitor various performance indicators using the Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and hence improved service delivery such as attendance of students and teachers in public schools.

The Accountability Lab, another project funded by MAVC, aims to develop an eco-system by building collaboration between various accountability actors.

The recently launched TrackReps project is aimed at targeting hard-to-reach millennials in the suburbs of Peshawar district.

With the motto of ‘democracy in action’, the project aims to monitor how elected representatives are performing against original baselines that they promised in party manifestos and election campaigns.

With the first public data already rolled out, the project aims to mobilise and engage citizens and government change agents as well as other intermediaries and ‘info-mediaries.’

An agenda inspired by Panama Papers is definitely not the tipping point for Pakistan. This issue of government accountability has special resonance this year but instead of blindly integrating the accountability agenda into electoral frameworks, the policymakers should seek public approval and use a data-driven approach to see why some governments are delivering and others have performed poorly.

Lessons from the British and European history teach us that information and communication technologies can help close the accountability gap between the government and citizens through active participation and public awareness of rights and equal opportunities for growth.

Pakistanis, who are fed up with the breakdown of accountability, should think about emulating what the citizens of Turkey did last month. They held non-democratic actors responsible for their actions.