Call for effective implementation of right to information law
The Centre for Peace and Development Initiative (CPDI) on Thursday organised a seminar urging authorities concerned to ensure effective and unhindered implementation of the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016.
Veteran journalist and human rights activist Zubeida Mustafa said the Right to Information Act serves as a means of check and balance to keep the government on the edge, to make it improve its functionality.
“It is now time to progressively and effectively implement the Right to Information Act, 2016, not only at the federal but also at provincial level.”
The new governments of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Punjab passed their respective internationally acclaimed right to information laws and established their independent information commissions by 2013.
It was natural to expect Sindh and Balochistan governments to set up such commissions as well as of the federal government to replace their restrictive freedom of information laws.
On this occasion, MPA Mehfooz Yar Khan said that in September 2016 the Sindh cabinet approved the draft of the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Bill, 2016 which is currently under further consideration at another committee.
He assured that his party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement – Pakistan (MQM-P) will ensure that the Sindh government takes immediate steps to operationalise this law.
CPDI Programme Manager Zahid Abdullah while addressing the seminar said that although the two provinces and the federation had repeatedly expressed their intention to introduce new right to information laws in their respective domains, the action on it so far has been extremely slow. He said slowly but steadily Pakistan was moving towards a more transparent and democratic system aimed at ensuring that public money does not fall prey to misuse and corruption.
Elected assembly representatives, policy experts, civil society activists and journalists were also in attendance. On March 13, following the lead of the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies, the provincial legislature of Sindh unanimously passed the Sindh Transparency & Right to Information Bill 2016.
The first of its kind in the province, the legislation envisages a proper mechanism with defined timelines for citizens to obtain information on any public authority in the province as well as proposes a system of penal action against officials withholding or obstructing release of information.A number of concerned sections of society, including journalists, media organisations, civil society activists and NGOs, had been eagerly awaiting the introduction and passage of the right to information bill by the Sindh Assembly.
The legislature adopted the bill in the light of a report of a 14-member select committee of the house. The legislation was referred to the body on November 23 last year for considering it clause by clause as well as proposing amendments.
As the chairman of the committee, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Nisar Khuhro presented the report in the assembly, which mulled over the draft. He termed its passage “a major and historic step” of the Sindh Assembly, saying the house had taken a giant leap for ensuring transparency.
He said the bill’s adoption would alleviate the process of an ordinary citizen getting access to public information as well as ensure good governance and help rid society of corruption.