‘Right to Information bill in Sindh is a ray of hope’
KARACHI: Appreciating the status of the Right to Information (RTI) law in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), the Pakistan Muslim League – Functional (PML-F) MPA Mahtab Akbar Rashdi said that the bill in Sindh is a ray of hope and no one should be exempt from it.
She was speaking at a briefing organised by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) for members of the Sindh Assembly and the media on the ‘State of Right to Information Legislation’ on Thursday. The event was attended by legislators from the Pakistan Peoples Party, PML-F and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), print and electronic media personnel and members of the civil society. The panel for the session was chaired by information minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Punjab information commissioner Mukhtar Ahmad Ali and K-P information commissioner Abdul Matin Khan.
Right to information law in Sindh
Aasiya Riaz of Pildat urged the Sindh Assembly members to take up the issue of RTI and emphasised the use of RTI law while reporting on issues of public interest.
Riaz quoted the example of Pildat’s information request under the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 for access to MNA attendance records, due to which the voluntary disclosure of these records has become a norm within the legislatures of Pakistan.
However, she complained about the absence of RTI law in Sindh, Balochistan and the centre. She said that Pildat monitors the use of RTI law in Punjab and K-P on a monthly basis. The RTI laws were passed on November 4, 2013, in K-P and on December 14, 2013, in Punjab. Khuhro informed the audience that the process of amending the out-dated Sindh Freedom of Information Act 2006 was already underway. He assured the members of its early passage through the assembly after discussions. He also said that even though there is an absence of RTI law in Sindh, it is only the Sindh Assembly that allows live coverage of its sessions for public interest. Khuhro further said that the websites of government departments must be upgraded for people to access information.
Pakistan awaits modern right to information law
The Punjab information commissioner was of the view that the citizens of Pakistan can no longer be denied the right to information. He further said that RTI had already made significant headway in Punjab and was being used by citizens and the media to unearth corruption and mismanagement in the use of public funds. According to him, every citizen has the right to question any public body, including the high courts. Ali added that an application on white paper is enough to inquire about any record from a public body and no one is authorised to demand a reason.
“Through RTI law, any citizen can ask any public office-holder about any public information regarding that office,” he said.