Right to information : Govt asked to pass bill
ISLAMABAD: The federal government should not delay the passage of the Right to Information Bill (RTI) 2014 any further on account of the concerns of security of sensitive information on defence and foreign relations.
This was stated by Senator Mushahid Hussain, while speaking at a two-day regional conference that kicked off on Wednesday.
The bill was approved by the Senate nearly two years ago, but is still waiting to be tabled in the National Assembly.
Dubbing the culture of cover-ups as a major impediment to the full realisation of RTI, the senator also stated that the Abbottabad Commission report must be made public to ensure the integrity of the country.
Participants at the conference urged Pakistan’s federal government to pass the new RTI law.
Delegates from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal, while sharing the status of implementation of RTI regimes in the region, agreed that South Asian countries face similar challenges in promulgation of RTI regimes.
Former interior secretary Tasneem Noorani stated that the second level of resistance to RTI might be government officials who may not completely accept the intricacies of their activities need to be open to public scrutiny.
He highlighted that the most important development on RTI has been the mushrooming of private media.
Nikhil Dey, a founding member of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), Rajasthan, urged civil society and media to highlight the potential uses of RTI in the public by utilising in the course of their work. He cited the example of the 10,000 RTI applications that the MKSS has helped ordinary citizens lodge in the state of Rajasthan in the ‘’Jawab dehi yatra’.
The speakers also underscored RTI laws alone will not ensure transparency in the region, but public interest and use of the law are crucial factors to this end.
They called for concerted efforts for the RTI movement to penetrate to the grassroots level and ensure good governance and that the role of media is crucial in popularising RTI laws and their usage in societies.
During the discussion, it was also mentioned that Pakistan’s existing Federal Freedom of Information Ordinance ranks 84th in the world, according to the International Rating Agency, Centre for Law and Democracy Canada.
Earlier in the inaugural session, Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said that the future of RTI in the South Asian would be bright if relevant stakeholders convened to discuss shared issues and concerns on a regular basis.
Dawn: ‘Politicians, bureaucrats will always resist RTI laws’
The News: Pakistan 84th in freedom of information ranking: Rating agency
Business Recorder: Right to Information: South Asian experts for taking movement to grassroots level