This one year project, which started on November 01, 2010, is being implemented in Jhang and Rawalpindi districts in collaboration with Foundation Open Society Institute Pakistan (FOSIP).
- Strengthening Demand Side of RTI at Grassroots Level (pilot campaign for RTI laws at grassroots level)
- Capacity Building of Journalists for Investigative Reporting
- Mainstreaming RTI in National Policy Discourse
We have conducted Baseline KAP survey in both Jhang and Rawalpindi districts to know about the existing level of knowledge, attitude, and practices regarding Right to Information. We have also mapped Local professional groups; barber associations, teachers associations, street level bureaucrats, elected representatives, community organisation, trade unions, bar associations, to carry out project activities. Project envisages awareness raising sessions with the community on using Right to Information and providing them interface meetings with district officials on right to information. Five training workshops on ‘Using Right to Information Legislation for Investigative Reporting’ will be held in four provincial capitals and one in Islamabad.
Seminar on ‘Punjab Public Bodies and Proactive Disclosure of Information’
1 Background and Rationale:
One of the striking features of the national debate on right to information legislation has been its singular focus on the ineffectiveness of existing information laws and the powerlessness of appellate bodies in helping citizens exercise their right of access to information held by public bodies. In this whole debate, the duty of public bodies to proactively disclose information has largely been passed over. There are plethora of records related to a common man that are held by public bodies. 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. There is method in this madness. 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 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. It is in this context that Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, (CPDI) held seminar on ‘Punjab Public Bodies and Proactive Disclosure of Information on April 23, 2013 at Hospitality Inn from 03:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
1.1 Seminar Objectives:
Lack of proactive disclosure of information on the part of public bodies highlighted;
- Civil society groups sensitized about the need for proactive disclosure of information;
Informed debate generated in the national discourse on the need for proactive disclosure of information by public bodies;
2 Seminar Proceedings:
Representatives of 22 civil society organizations from Lahore participated in the seminar. MR. Zahid Abdullah, Program Manager CPDI and MR. Shahzada Irfan, eminent journalist and the regular reporter of the News on Sunday of the News International were the panelists. Ms. Komal Zahra opened the proceedings with her welcome address.
2.1 MR. Zahid Abdullah:
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.
2.2 MR. Shahzada Irfan:
In his address to the participants, MR. 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. This is especially ironical given the fact that a huge IT Tower has been established by the Punjab government. He was also of the view that sharing of records through web sites will eliminate the need for visiting offices of public bodies in person. As a result, people will not have to run from pillar to post and offer bribes to get things done.
3 Questions and Answer Session:
There was lively debate in the question and answer session. The participants were of the view that that the debate on proactive disclosure of information was the need of the hour and CPDI had done a commendable job by generating debate on this issue. It was also suggested that there was need for establishing working group in Lahore so that it could put pressure on policy makers for the legislation of provincial right to information law. One participant suggested that as citizens we do not utilize existing spaces for our rights. He shared with the participants that he submitted information request under Section 137 of Local Government Ordinance 2001 to ask the concerned department about the waste disposal measure adopted by the department in his area. As a result of this information request and persistent engagement with the public body, the issue was resolved.
The seminar objectives were achieved as there was lively debate on proactive disclosure of information’ civil society groups were sensitized about the need for proactive disclosure of information and the seminar proceedings were covered by Dawn, a prominent daily contributing to informed debate about the need for proactive disclosure of information in national discourse.