Caretaker Information Minister, Mosarrat Qadeem pledges to draft effective right to information law for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Peshawar, April 30, 2013: there are plethora of records related to a common man that are held by public bodies. There have never been public services messages about the fee and procedures making people aware how common people can have access to their own records. Neither public bodies display such information at prominent places at their premises. As a result, a common man runs from pillar to post, offers bribes for the copies of his own records like Fard, Fard, Fard beah, Khasra paimaish, Jamabundi, General and special power of attorney, Final court order/judgment and decree, Records of plaint, petitions and written statements of civil, criminal, family and rent cases, any interim order of the court, record of order sheet of any case which he should be able to get by paying a fee of two rupees per page. This lack of information about fee and procedures to get copies of these records results in corruption and hardships for a common man. These views were expressed by speakers in a seminar on ‘Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Public Bodies and Proactive Disclosure of Information’ held by Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, (CPDI) in a local hotel in Peshawar. Ms. Mosarrat Qadeem, Caretaker Minister for Information, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa told the participants that KPK caretaker government was working to improve the existing draft Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Access to Information Act 2013. She pledged that the draft information law for the province will be a highly effectively law according to our own traditions. Mr. Furrukh Seir, Caretaker Minister for Health KPK was of the view that information was two way process and those seeking information should be prepared as how to use the information. Mr., Zaheer Khattack, Executive Director, Urban Rural Development Organization, (URDO) was of the view that information desks are not functional at government departments due to which citizens have to face lot of difficulties. Mr. Idrees Kamal, eminent rights activists shared with the participants that people generally do not use the existing procedures and instead get things done by offering brines. Ms. Azra Nafees Yousafzai, Executive Director, Centre for Governance and Public Accountability, (CGPA) shared with the participants the experience of submitting information requests with the public bodies to seek budget docments. She said that public bodies were not willing to share even budget documents and declared these documents as secret documents. Mr. Zahid Abdullah, Program Manager CPDI shared with the participants that the district Copying Manual contains list of public records and citizens can get copies of these records by depositing prescribed fee to the concerned department. However, majority of citizens do not know about the fee and procedures to get copies of public records held by courts, revenue department and other district public bodies. He also stressed the need for proactive disclosure of information by public departments through their web sites. He was of the view that online sharing of information will go a long way in improving service delivery. The participants of the seminar demanded the provincial government to take launch awareness campaign about the procedure and fee for getting copies of public records from revenue, courts and union councils. They also demanded that all district should be duty-bound to prominently display information about procedures and fee at their web sites and at prominent places on their premises.

Seminar speakers urge Punjab revenue departments, courts and union councils to improve service delivery by displaying information about their functions at prominent places

Lahore, April 23, 2013: The District Copying Manual contains list of public records and citizens can get copies of these records by depositing prescribed fee to the concerned department. There have never been public services messages about the fee and procedures making people aware how common people can have access to their own records. Neither public bodies display such information at prominent places at their premises. Consequently, a majority of citizens do not know about the fee and procedures to get copies of public records held by courts, revenue department and other district public bodies. These views were expressed by speakers in a seminar on ‘Punjab Public Bodies and Proactive Disclosure of Information’ held by Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, (CPDI) in a local hotel in Lahore. Mr. Zahid Abdullah, Program Manager CPDI shared with the participants that there are plethora of records related to a common man that are held by public bodies. The power wielded by the public officials stems from the ignorance of the masses. As a result, a common man runs from pillar to post, offers bribes for the copies of his own records like Fard, Fard, Fard beah, Khasra paimaish, Jamabundi, General and special power of attorney, Final court order/judgment and decree, Records of plaint, petitions and written statements of civil, criminal, family and rent cases, any interim order of the court, record of order sheet of any case which he should be able to get by paying a fee of two rupees per page. This lack of information about fee and procedures to get copies of these records results in corruption and hardships for a common man. Senior journalist, Shahzada Irfan stressed the need for proactive disclosure of information by public departments through their web sites. He was of the view that online sharing of information will go a long way in improving service delivery. He lamented the fact that even district Lahore web site is not functioning. The participants of the seminar demanded the provincial government to take launch awareness campaign about the procedure and fee for getting copies of public records from revenue, courts and union councils. They also demanded that all district should be duty-bound to prominently display information about procedures and fee at their promises.

Dilly-dallying by Federal Ombudsman and National Assembly Secretariat in sharing attendance record of parliamentarians deplored

Islamabad, April 08, 2013: It is mind-boggling as to how attendance record of the members of National Assembly (MNAs) be regarded as personal data? The attendance record of a MNA only tells whether or not he/she attended National Assembly proceedings.It does not invade privacy of an MNA as maintained by National Assembly Secretariat in response to information request filed by Advocate Saleem Iqbal on April 06, 2012 under Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 seeking seek attendance record of MNAs during the parliamentary year 2010-11 and 2011-12. Centre for Peace and Development deplores the fact that Federal Ombudsman has not been able to decide this matter in complaint lodged on May 15, 2012, even after the lapse of more than 10 months. The parliamentarians draw salaries and benefit from other perks, privileges, travel and other allowances from public funds specifically to attend National Assembly proceedings. How can voters make informed choices if they do not know how many days a particular MNA attended National Assembly proceedings? Why is National Assembly Secretariat jealously guarding attendance record of parliamentarians? When such information is hidden from public view, it gives rise to rumours and negative perceptions about parliamentarians which is not good for democracy. Are there some parliamentarians who kept on claiming travel allowance which is not justified by the attendance record? Are there parliamentarians whose attendance record is abysmally low? Which are the parliamentarians who set high standards of participation in parliamentary proceedings? These and other questions can only be answered if the attendance record is made available in the public domain. Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, (CPDI) demands National Assembly Secretariat to put the attendance record of the parliamentarians on National Assembly web site. Furthermore, Federal Ombudsman is urged to decide matters of public importance in reasonable time limit.

Shahbaz promises right to information law as first priority

ISLAMABAD: Chief Minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif has promised that the first legislation to be passed by the next Punjab Assembly will be the Right to Information law if the PML-N came into power, rekindling a hope for the media and civil society organizations struggling for this legislation.

 

“Mark my words. This will be the first law approved from the Punjab Assembly if we form the next government,” Shahbaz Sharif said with reference to the RTI law in a telephonic conversation with The News on Saturday.

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All agree on freedom of information need

ISLAMABAD: 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,” were the views expressed by speakers at a conference on ‘Politics of Right to Information Legislation’, held by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) in connection with 10th right to Information Day in a local hotel in Islamabad.

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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.

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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.

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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.