Call to implement right to information law for transparency, accountability

KARACHI: Speakers at a stakeholders’ dialogue on the implementation of Sindh Right to Information law underlined the importance of right to information (RIT) in citizens’ daily life and its contribution to good governance, and urged for the implementation of law to activate the mechanism for transparency and accountability in the province on Wednesday.

The event was organised by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) in collaboration with the Sindh Information Commission (SIC) with the support of Friedrich Naumann Foundation Pakistan (FNF) at a local hotel, coinciding with the 20th International Day for Universal Access to Information and RIT award ceremony.

Since 2014, The Coalitionon right to information (CRTI) has been successfully conducting Annual RTI Champion Award to protect and promote citizens’ right to information held by public bodies.

CPDI Executive Director Mukhtar Ahmad explained the importance of information and said that the essence of RTI revolved around online/offline proactive disclosure of information by government departments.

He appreciated that RTI laws had been enacted in four provinces and federal level, and said that implementation remained a question especially in Sindh and Balochistan.

He encouraged citizens to use their fundamental right to know to promote transparency, accountability and inclusiveness of citizens.

SIC Information Commissioner Shahid Jatoi said the commission was trying to implement the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016 by designation of officials and proactive disclosure of information.

Jatoi was of the view that under the act every provincial department should proactively disclose information about their actions, decisions and other affairs through their websites, practice, which he believed, had remained largely absent in most public offices.

CIS Commissioner Advocate Saima Agha said that despite the challenges, commission was issuing notices and at present, there were 272 pending complaints with the commission.

Dr Raza Gardezi explained the importance of RTI in citizens’ daily life and its contribution to good governance.

Jami Chandio, an RTI activist, said that the Sindh government was ahead of all other provincial governments in making the RTI law human-friendly, but the implementation remained weak.

Sindh Bar Association President Shahab Sarki said rules and procedures of the act should be notified as without notification there was no legal existence of the law.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement MPA Rana Ansar urged the provincial government to immediately implement Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016.

“Information can empower citizens so that they can make informed decisions,” she added.

PPP MPA Sharmila Faruqui underlined the need of further empowering the SIC for effective use of right to information to activate the mechanism for transparency and accountability in the province. She also emphasised to adopt e-governance for proactive disclosure of information through the websites.

Labour Minister Saeed Ghani said every department should be accountable, including judiciary and law enforcement agencies.

“Sindh government is committed to empower the Sindh Information Commission,” he added.

Birgit Lamm, head of Friedrich Naumann Foundation Pakistan, congratulated RTI award winners and said that in a digital world, certified information was crucial, especially in flood crises.

During the question-answer session, the participants were enlightened in detail regarding the implementation of RTI laws in Pakistan.

In the end, all the participants pledged to continue their joint efforts for the promotion of a transparent and accountable regime in Pakistan. Senior media persons, lawyers, and civil society activists attended the ceremony.

RTI awards were given to Sadia Mazhar in the journalist category and Nadeem Umer in the citizen category for persistently using RIT laws and filing investigative stories in print and electronic media.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2022



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