Karachi, June 08, 2015: Sindh Freedom of Information Act 2006 and along with Balochistan and Federal right to information law are inadequate as these laws do not meet international standards of effective right to information legislation. ‘Information’ is not defined, the list of exempted information is vague, there is no harm test, and the process of access to information held by public bodies is neither cost-effective nor easy.
More importantly, instead of establishing independent and autonomous commissions, the role of appellate body has been entrusted to Ombudsman. These views were expressed by speakers in conference on ‘Right to Information Legislation in Sindh: the Way Forward’ held in Karachi by Centre for Peace and Development Initiative, (CPDI). Speakers also urged the Sindh Government to repeal Sindh Freedom of Information Act 2006 and pass a new robust RTI Law like KPK and Punjab. The conference speakers included Muhammad Anwar – Head of Administration Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Mr. Amer Ejaz- Executive Director, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, Ms. Sharmila Farooqi, Secretary Information PPPP, Dr. Huma Baqai, Senior Analyst, Dr. Ramesh Kumar, MNA PML-N, Mr. Firdous Shamim Naqvi from PTI, Mr. Khurram Sher Zaman MPA from PTI, Mr. Mahar Abbas Dr. Seema Zia MPA, Dr. Syed Raza Ali Gardezi and Syed Kausar Abbas Program Manager of Centre for peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI)). Speakers were of the view that a robust RTI Law should be enacted at the earliest by provincial government. Mr. Anwar stressed upon the importance of RTI Laws. People should make their governments accountable through these RTI Laws says Anwar. He also emphasized on the awareness raising of RTI in Pakistan. Mr. Amer Ejaz presented the Legislative Landscape of RTI in Pakistan. He pointed out the loopholes in Current Sindh FOI Act 2006. Sharmila Farouqi said that new RTI Bill for Sindh is in consideration and it will be presented in new parliamentary year. There will be minimum exceptions and there will be cost effective said Sharmila. Mr. Ramesh Kumar said that PML-N will support legislation regarding RTI in Sindh Assembly. Dr. Huma Baqai said that we should proactively disclose information in this age of information. Hampering free flow of information has become source of international embarrassment for Pakistan said Dr. Baqai. Syed Kausar Abbas, Program Manager, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) urged the Sindh government to immediate draft a Right to Information bill 2015 and promulgate right to information law in Sindh to ensure maximum participation of citizens’ in governance affairs.
Journalist unions and NGOs have not really paid attention to law of right to information as they should have. Interest of MPAs should be reinforced by public pressure that can only be done if people know their rights said Mazhar Abbas. PTI MPA Khurram Sher Zaman talked about the importance of right to Information. He also pledged to work for the enactment of new RTI Law for Sindh.
CPDI also resented Sindh Model Right to Information Bill 2015. This model Law is based on the international standards.