Freedom of information: Punjab police
FREEDOM of information is a fundamental human right, the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the UN is consecrated. (Resolution 59 (1) of the UNGA)
The main theme behind the concept of freedom of information is that public institutions have an obligation to disclose information and every member of the public has a corresponding right to receive information.
This right is unlimited unless there are legitimate privacy or security concerns. Where a public authority seeks to deny access to information, it must show that the information it wishes to withhold comes within the scope of these concerns.
The Article 19-A of the Constitution and under the freedom of information of federal and provincial laws, every citizen has the right to access information about the performance of public institutions and other official deeds.
For this purpose, the Punjab police introduced a policy in 2007. The policy deals with both substantive and procedural issues. Although, the Punjab police issued this policy, they have not taken any solid steps to enforce it. That’s why after passing of nearly six years the policy has not been fully implemented at any of the police stations in Bahawalpur district.
The following facts have been revealed through governance monitoring reports produced by AWAZ Foundation Pakistan: Centre for Development Services ,about the 20 police stations monitored during April 2011 to June 2012 in Bahawalpur.
Seventy-five per cent police stations have no designated information access officer, while 70 per cent police stations are not maintaining a separate register to record requests seeking information.
Seventy-five per cent police stations had received no information requests during the visited month and 70 per cent police stations do not provide copies of challans to public.
Recently, owning to advocacy campaign of district governance group, the district police officer, Bahawalpur, issued a notification on July 12 to all SHOs and moharirs in which they were directed to designate an officer in regard to access to information at each police station, and maintain a separate register to record requests seeking information.
It would be better if the district police officer should also provide training opportunity for the officers concerned in this regard.
Let us hope the police officers will be more accountable of their behavior and obligations towards inmates and citizens.
SYED MOHAMMAD ALI
AWAZ Foundation Pakistan: Centre for Development Services Bahawalpur