Citizens have the right to know
KARACHI: General Secretary of Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment (CBE) Amber Alibhai urged for an informed and pro-active role of the citizenry in seeking protection of their fundamental rights as enshrined in the legislations of all state institutions.
She was addressing a workshop on ‘Right to Information – RTI’ organised by Shehri-CBE, here on Saturday. She highlighted the active role Shehri-CBE has played in trying to facilitate good governance by advocating transparency in government functions.
Alibhai said that according to Article 19(A) of the constitution, every citizen has the “right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.”
Sameer Hamid Dodhy gave a presentation on the subject and stated at the outset that Article 19(A) had given strength to the existing legislation. Describing the efficacy of freedom of information, he compared it to sunlight which was the best disinfectant.
Dodhy informed about the freedom of information (FOI) legislations that comprise laws guaranteeing access to data held by the state and their status at the national and provincial levels. He explained about the applicability of the ordinance in terms of which type of state institutions can be asked to share data and what type of information can be accessed and what type of information and record is exempt from disclosure.
He then explained in detail the ‘process’ of ‘invoking’ the FOI Ordinance – guidelines for making an FOI Application. He said that when asked a query, the governmental section concerned was bound to provide the information within 21 days.
Dr Syed Raza Ali Gardezi of Shehri-CBE also spoke on the accession. He informed about the experience of Shehri-CBE in invoking the FOI Act in terms of applications filed and results achieved. He outlined the salient features of writing an FOI application, and in the end conducted an interactive exercise with the participants on filing requests on subjects of their interest.
The participants said that enforcement of Article 19(A)
was essential to bringing transparency in governance system. They said that effective functioning of democracy depended on participation of citizens who were well informed.
Source: Daily Times