'Only right to information can ensure transparency' -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

‘Only right to information can ensure transparency’

By Shahid Husain

Karachi: Noted educationist and author Dr Muhammad Ali Shaikh said here on Wednesday that only the “right to information” could ensure transparency in Pakistan.

Dr Shaikh who is also the political biographer of slain Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, said talking about corruption had become a fashion in Pakistan. The question was how to eradicate it.

He made these observations while delivering a lecture on “Corruption, Transparency & Citizen’s Right to Information” under the auspices of the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) at its office at the Karachi Press Club (KPC).

He pointed out there were several types of corruption including moral, social and political corruption. “Political corruption has badly affected South Asian nations,” he observed.

Dr. Shaikh said corruption flourished in “closed societies” and transparency was antithesis to corruption.

The real paymaster, he said, was the common man and he had the right to information and this right has been recognised by the United Nations.

He said there were 85 countries who had given “Right to Information” to its people.

“The most powerful example of ‘Right to Information’ was enshrined in Islam,” he said.

In the United States, he said the government or an organisation was bound to provide information to every citizen but one should keep in mind that the person giving information has also a vested interest. He said in the United States the government was bound to provide information within 21 days.

“In India, ‘Right to Information’ is being used as a tool to eradicate corruption,” he pointed out.

Referring to Pakistan, he said in our country Article 19-A of the Constitution ensures ‘Right to Information” after 18th Amendment and this guarantee was given for the first time. However, he hastened to add that former federal information minister Kaira had assured that by mid-February a law would be enacted in this regard but this has not been done as yet. As a result, he said, we were still following the 2002 law that was very cumbersome.

“We have to bring transparency,” he said “and it can only been ensured through the Right to Information.”

Responding to a question by The News, he said it was true that “corruption has become socially acceptable in Pakistan. But if we follow the ‘Right to Information’ we will get information about every project.”

In the 2002 law, he said, there were 33 exemptions; therefore, one couldn’t get proper information.

Earlier, the KUJ General Secretary, Hasan Abbas, said, “We need to make sure that our stories were not bounced because this is contrary to journalistic ethics”.

Former KPC President Imtiaz Faran said that the KPC was a symbol of struggle for press freedom and democracy.
Source: The News
Date:3/3/2011