ISLAMABAD: Former federal minister for information Senator Pervaiz Rashid Thursday said some institutions in Pakistan discouraged the flow of information and most of information was not provided on the pretext of threat to national security.
Speaking at the RTI Award ceremony, he said, “God has revealed every important information to His subjects through the holy books. He didn’t hide anything from His subjects, but these so-called gods on the earth try to hide information from people”.
“Unfortunately, it is not easy to get access to information from all the institutions. Today’s democracy in Pakistan is away from transparency. Right of access to information is not protected and the relevant laws are not implemented. Most of the information is not provided on the pretext of threat to national security.
“We should have the right to know, who helped in the emergence of non-state actors, budget spent on their making and what amount of damage they caused. These non-state actors have become a liability for Pakistan, he said.
He said the RAI Bill 2017 will gradually promote the right of getting access and it will break the culture of secrecy. He was hopeful that in future there will be culture of asking and getting information from government. Implementation of RTI law is significant for transparency and the bright future of Pakistan, he added.
Speaking at the award ceremony, which coincided with the 15th International Right to Know Day, Senator Farhatullah Babar said the good RTI law should apply to all the institutions but the security establishment in Pakistan was the elephant in the room.
“The requested information is not provided on the basis of public interest and under the label of ‘secret and sensitive’. He also criticised the institutions for delayed RTI legislation and implementation and opined that the ‘Dawn Leaks’ was not the issue of national security; it was a candid discussion between the institutional heads. The government showed weakness by removing Pervaiz Rashid.
“Parliament is not solely responsible for delayed effective legislation on RTI. We raised and asked many question from Ministry of Defence but each time the answer was ‘Secret and Sensitive’. We (the Parliamentarians) sent a question to the Defence Ministry to inform us only if there was any inquiry held on the Kargil issue. The answer from the Defence Ministry was that it secret and sensitive. We did not ask the content of inquiry or any other details but just a simple question. We as a parliamentarians submit our assets declarations which are made public by the Election Commission of Pakistan. Similarly all government official also submits their assets declaration. But when we (Parliamentarians) asked if the Ministry of Defence had the assets declaration of Generals, the answer was ‘Secret and Sensitive”, commented Senator Farhatullah Babar.
Senator Babar feared that the RTI law might not get passed by National Assembly as some hidden elements were opposing it. He said there should be a balance between national interest and public interest. The RTI Bill still have room for improvement, he said.
“Parliament has the right to ask question if any government official is found involved in corruption, but despite being parliamentarians they do not get answers to their questions,” he remarked.