Right to info
AS Pakistan enters another year of independence, we often find ourselves asking the question: Are we really free? What does freedom mean in practice? Is it simply the right to exist as a ‘Pakistani’ citizen?
To me, freedom means being entitled to the full spectrum of my human rights, including the right to education and healthcare, freedom of expression, security and to live without any fear of discrimination based on my gender, religious or political affiliation.
How many of us can claim to have all those rights granted to us? How do we ensure that our basic rights are ensured and not violated? There is one ‘right’ that can help us achieve full access to all other human rights — and this is the right to information.
Right to information has been in the news lately with a new RTI law in the works. Members of Parliament have come up with a draft called Right to Information Act 2014 that will make it necessary for the government to share information about its working with the public when asked.
The law will also facilitate the public in getting verified information about NGOs, the judiciary, members of parliament and even the functioning of parliament.
It is important to note that this draft law also calls for the creation of a ‘Pakistan Information Commission’ that will ensure the implementation of the right to information legislation and help create awareness about RTI among the public as well. If this draft, in fact, becomes the law, it will help us — the people of Pakistan — gain greater access to information, hold public offices and officials accountable and safeguard our own rights. Needless to say, that is good news.
We must actively exercise those rights — especially our right to information. We must actively seek out what are the rights which governmental bodies are responsible for upholding them and what we should be doing in case they are violated. There is a law and there is a process available to us that can help us hold violators accountable. So, next time, instead of cursing the oppressor and the violator, use your right to information.
For more on how to file an RTI request, check out www.shehri.org/rti