Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting urged to engage journalists and citizens’ groups in the process of finalizing right to information law

Islamabad, July 20, 2012: After protracted and deafening silence on the issue of enacting law to protect citizens’ right to information, government has finally taken a step forward and Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting has formed sub-committee with the mandate to work with Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in order to finalize legislation on freedom of information.

Continue reading

CPDI to give evidence of secret fund in SC

ISLAMABAD: A private organisation called the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) would approach the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday, claiming that it has documentary evidence about the secret funds of the Information Ministry used under a different head, called the “Special Publicity Fund”.

 

Zahid Abdullah, a top executive of the CPDI, told ‘The News’ on Monday that he had a letter in which the Ministry of Information had admitted in 2008 that the Special Publicity Fund was also a secret fund. He recalled that in 2008 the SPF had over Rs200 million.

Continue reading

SC refuses blind person to become party in media case

The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) deplores the fact that the Supreme Court Registrar Office disallowed Zahid Abdullah from representing himself in person before the Supreme Court in the Hamid Mir case on the basis of his blindness.

The statement says it was a clear violation of Article 13 of the United Nation’s Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPWD), which Pakistan ratified in July 2011. This article requires states to provide reasonable accommodations to the disabled so that they could have access to justice and participate in the legal proceedings at all stages.

Zahid Abdullah presented himself before the Registrar’s Office on Tuesday with an application to be added as a party in the case — petition No 105/2012, Hamid Mir and Absar Alam Vs Federation of Pakistan and others. Despite repeated requests by Abdullah that he had the right to represent himself in person before the court, the official at the Registrar’s Office remained adamant that Abdullah could only represent himself before the Supreme Court through ‘next friend’ or through ‘Advocate-on-Record’.

When the official was asked to cite the Supreme Court rules under which he was disallowing the applicant to represent himself in person, the official said he was being ‘prudent’ as the rules did not say anything on this issue. The CPDI urges the chief justice to take notice of this incident and issue guidelines in this regard so that persons with disabilities could exercise their right of access to justice on an equal basis with others. Abdullah has the right of appeal against this decision which he intends to exercise on Thursday (October 11).

Zahid Abdullah is a programme manager at CPDI and has done wonderful work for citizens’ basic right of ‘access to information’. He has a long history of fighting against the government departments in different courts for the right of access to information and has no parallel in the country of 180 million despite being disabled.

Gilani flew almost to the moon as PM

Given the flight distance he undertook, Gilani could have made one trip to the moon or 11 trips around the globe. Each of his foreign visit cost the national exchequer at least 10 million rupees. Nobody knows what foreign policy objectives have been achieved as the country continues to remain in global isolation and several heads of states cancelled their visit to Pakistan at the eleventh hour.

Continue reading

CPDI Study exposes the inefficiency of Assembly secretariat and provincial departments for addressing the Questions of MPAs

Islamabad, September 28, 2012: Government departments need to be obligated through right to information laws to proactively disclose information pertaining to issues of public importance as well as provide such information when it is demanded by citizens. Insertion of Article 19-A into the Constitution through 18th Amendment declaring right to information a fundamental right is a welcome step but federal and provincial governments have not enacted information laws. These views were expressed by speakers in conference on ‘Politics of Right to Information Legislation’, held by Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) in connection with 10th right to Information Day, in a local hotel in Islamabad. Raja Muhammad Shafqat Khan Abbassi, Chairman, Press council of Pakistan delivered the keynote speech wherein he stressed the need of continuous political commitment for effective legislation at all three tiers of government. Speaking on the occasion, CPDI representative Zahid Abdullah said that it is mind-boggling as to why none of the major political parties, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Awami National Party (ANP) and Motahida Qomi Movement (MQM) which have been in power for more than four years have not taken any meaningful steps to legislate on right to information. Sharing with media CPDI ‘Model right to Information Law’, Mr. Abdullah said that the model law could serve as a basic document for legislation on right to information as existing bills in Parliament like one introduced by Ms. Sherry Rahman private member bill does not meet standards of a an effective information law. Conference participants unanimously adopted resolution demanding the repeal of existing ineffective laws like Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 and its replicas in Sindh and Balochistan and urged the provincial and federal governments to enact new information laws after consulting civil society groups. Politicians at the conference, including Senator Haji Adeel (ANP), Siddique-ul-Faooq (PML-N), Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bezinjo (NP), and Naheed Begum (MQM) all agreed that culture of secrecy must be dismantled and that conference resolution would be shared with their respective parties so that firm advances could be made towards the actualization of Right to Information in the true spirit.

Conference speakers demand enactment of right to information laws

Islamabad, September 28, 2012: Government departments need to be obligated through right to information laws to proactively disclose information pertaining to issues of public importance as well as provide such information when it is demanded by citizens. Insertion of Article 19-A into the Constitution through 18th Amendment declaring right to information a fundamental right is a welcome step but federal and provincial governments have not enacted information laws. These views were expressed by speakers in conference on ‘Politics of Right to Information Legislation’, held by Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) in connection with 10th right to Information Day, in a local hotel in Islamabad. Raja Muhammad Shafqat Khan Abbassi, Chairman, Press council of Pakistan delivered the keynote speech wherein he stressed the need of continuous political commitment for effective legislation at all three tiers of government. Speaking on the occasion, CPDI representative Zahid Abdullah said that it is mind-boggling as to why none of the major political parties, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Awami National Party (ANP) and Motahida Qomi Movement (MQM) which have been in power for more than four years have not taken any meaningful steps to legislate on right to information. Sharing with media CPDI ‘Model right to Information Law’, Mr. Abdullah said that the model law could serve as a basic document for legislation on right to information as existing bills in Parliament like one introduced by Ms. Sherry Rahman private member bill does not meet standards of a an effective information law. Conference participants unanimously adopted resolution demanding the repeal of existing ineffective laws like Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 and its replicas in Sindh and Balochistan and urged the provincial and federal governments to enact new information laws after consulting civil society groups. Politicians at the conference, including Senator Haji Adeel (ANP), Siddique-ul-Faooq (PML-N), Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bezinjo (NP), and Naheed Begum (MQM) all agreed that culture of secrecy must be dismantled and that conference resolution would be shared with their respective parties so that firm advances could be made towards the actualization of Right to Information in the true spirit.

“Right to Information” is a notable Casualty in PMLN Manifesto

Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has criticized the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) for ignoring effective legislation on Right to Information in the election manifesto. An analysis of the manifesto also revealed that it was drafted in haste and without any scientific research in the background.

Right to Information was conceded to the citizens in 2010 through 18th amendment to the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Since then no meaningful attempt has been made by PMLN to pursue federal government for enactment of law. The Punjab, where PMLN was in power for last five years, such attempts were piecemeal, un-coordinated and were not made whole-heartedly and hence remained shy of any effective legislation. Even before the 18th amendment, the leadership of PMLN and PPP committed in Charter of Democracy (COD) to bring a legislation on Right to Information but that commitment was put in background after the 2008 elections. Despite repeated commitment of the PMLN leadership in different conferences and seminar, no meaningful and decisive steps were taken in this regard.

The other promises made in the manifesto are more a rhetoric than a reality. A lot of commitments have been made but their financial implications have not been calculated. The manifesto talks about the reduction of tax evasion but does not elaborate how the trend would be arrested with present rusted tax machinery of Pakistan. The increase in tax-to-GDP ratio from 9% to 15% would remain a forlorn hope with existing tax machinery and without adopting strict policy of tax collection. In countries with tax-to-GDP ratio as high as 15%, the vast majority of parliamentarians do not evade taxes as happens in Pakistan. A first step should have been the commitment from the party not to give tickets to any candidate who has a history o tax evasion. A more vivid party stance on broadening the tax base and taxing the agriculture sector should have been the part of the manifesto. This would give an opportunity to the voter to exercise its informed choice during the forthcoming election.

It was also suggested to reduce inflation by reducing the tax rate. While CPDI is not against the reduction of tax rates, the reduction without broadening the tax base will further decrease the tax revenue and economy would end up nowhere.

The manifesto also talks about reduction of current expenditure other than salaries and allowances. Such reductionwill have a direct effect on the operational budget of the government departments. While CPDI is by no means in favor of wasteful expenditure, at the same time question should be asked that whether we are in a position tofurther reduce the operational budget. Thenon-availability of sufficient operational budget has already turned our schools and hospitals into ruins and we cannot afford further de-generation of these facilities. One-third reduction in current budget, as committed in the manifesto, is not realistic.

One ludicrous commitment was local government election within six months of general elections. One wonder what hurdle to local government elections would be surpassed in six months that otherwise could not be overcome when party was in power in the Punjab. There should be someone in the party to explain that why PMLN failed to hold local government elections in the province?

Manifesto also highlights production of 10,000 MW of electricity but no reasons for the failure to produce a single MW in the Punjab was mentioned as provinces were allowed to mobilize their own resources to generate power.

The leadership of PMLN is requested to respond to these questions in greater details. People will continue to ask these questions from them during the election campaign.