Today we mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta - a document that paved the way for parliamentary democracy as we know it. The Magna Carta laid out a set of basic rights including freedom and democracy. It introduced the concept of accountability - that no one, the King then, political leaders today, is above the law. Democracies depend on individuals and governments playing their part to create stronger and more accountable political systems that allow citizens to hold the state answerable.

In Pakistan, the growing strength of democratic values was evident in the historic transition from one elected government to the next in the May 2013 election. That transition was helped by a judicial movement and a vibrant media, who played a crucial role in ensuring accountability. These factors together with strong political will have paved the way for economic reforms and development – which bodes well for more robust and sustainable growth in Pakistan in the future.

Nevertheless, although progress has been made in a number of areas, Pakistan still remains among the lowest 30 percent of countries according to World Bank governance indicators. These indicators include voice and accountability, political stability, rule of law and control of corruption.

Various international observers recorded that the last general elections in Pakistan were among the most credible in Pakistan’s history, with a strong electoral register and the highest-ever number of women and new voters. I welcome efforts to agree reforms to the electoral system so that the next elections here are even better. It is important to build a system in which all parties have faith. This will lead to a culture of accepting defeat in elections results – an important part of any democracy.

The federal and provincial governments of Pakistan recognise the governance challenges facing the country and have shown a strong commitment to address them. The UK is working in partnership with Pakistan to further help strengthen institutions, rule of law and accountability – all of which are enabling factors for a more prosperous Pakistan.

The UK is supporting the ‘Right to Information’ legislation with the provincial governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This enables citizens to question the government’s actions. We have also supported the Punjab Government’s e-governance initiatives to allow citizens to provide feedback on their use of government services. This service has helped Punjab citizens save between PKR 4,000 -5,000 on each public sector transaction on property registration.

There is also a role for civil society to lobby the government on governance and other issues and use government initiatives such as the Right to Information to hold those in power to account. They can play an important role in promoting political participation by educating people about their rights, promoting tolerance and the concerns of diverse groups such as women, workers and children. Freedom of expression and diversity of thought are important democratic principles and should be encouraged.

Greater accountability, transparency and good governance at all levels will lead to a more prosperous Pakistan and allow the country to build a stronger economy and essential services such as education and health.

Ultimately, the future is in Pakistan’s hands. The primary responsibility for reform lies with the government. But every Pakistani citizen has a role to play in supporting measures for a more stable and prosperous Pakistan. The UK has had hundreds of years to develop since the Magna Carta was sealed. As a partner and friend, we stand ready to assist Pakistan’s own democratic journey and development.