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.
The Chairman, Press council of Pakistan, Shafqat Abbasi, delivered the keynote speech wherein he stressed the need of continuous political commitment for effective legislation at all three tiers of the government.
Speaking on the occasion, CPDI representative Zahid Abdullah said that it is mind-boggling as to why none of the major political parties—the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Awami National Party (ANP) and Muttahida Qaumi 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 Sherry Rahman, private member bill does not meet standards of a an effective information law.
Conference participants unanimously adopted a 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), Siddiqueul Farooq (PML-N), Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bezinjo (NP), and Naheed Begum (MQM), 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.