Freedom of information
This is apropos of a report ‘Officialdom scared of law to ensure transparency’ (Dec 6). The report is an analysis of the fact how scared our Punjab government officials are on a possible rise in public demand of scrutiny of official records after a law called Access to Information is on the turf.
Access to Information law is a new garb on Freedom to Information Bill 2002, which allows the public in general to have access to public office records.
The law, hitherto a federal chapter, possesses potential enough to release tremors to, perhaps, only corrupt officials in Pakistan, who could find it difficult in future to misuse the powers and misappropriate the privileges they are endowed with.
The law calls for every so designated federal government official to hand over the official record either in form of print or tape, to any member of the public on his/her request accompanying a fee of Rs50.
Now it is feared by many in bureaucratic circles that the law may prove decisive in pointing out the foul means adopted by them while misusing their powers, piling up wrongfully earned money and many other hitherto unknown advantages they have been fallaciously peculating from public exchequer.
One should note that the law itself is not aimed at curbing the corruption since it only confers upon public at large the right to know, yet the main positive effect believed to be a possible outcome of the law is reining in of our present notorious bureaucratic system, which through its typical colonial mindset, has until now kept the public at arm’s length. This is, thus, a blessing in disguise for people of Pakistan, particularly those who have suffered a great deal of highhandedness at the hands of bureaucratic abrasiveness.
Besides, all the departments including Wapda, irrigation, commissions, development authorities, semi-autonomous bodies and others could now be accessed by people without fear of them being denied of any information.
Though the law exempts a long list of official documents to be disclosed, coupled with exclusion of idea of any serious action against the refusing officer, it provides people an ample opportunity to stand against the long prevailing administrative malpractices and to seek the redress of their grievances by knocking at doors of courts with such a documentary proof.
With every passing day it is hoped more public will be informed of this much-needed law, and, consequently, more corrupt officers are expected to be brought to book.
Educated citizens of Pakistan are entreated to resort to any public office and demand copies of any official matters of their concern including new appointments in the department, grant of contracts, buying and purchasing by officers, spending of public money, medical treatment records and all the other expenses borne by the concerned federal departments and ministries.
This practice, if exercised in abundance as per law, is bound to create fear only in the hearts of indurate public servants.