CCTV footage of NA demanded by activists

ISLAMABAD: Forged attendance record of the MQM MNA, who beat a journalist in Lahore but showed presence in Islamabad, has drawn fire for the secretive National Assembly as journalists and information rights activists have asked Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to produce the video footage of the MNA to clear this mystery.

Journalists have demanded that the attendance record of all lawmakers should be made public.Neither the National Assembly has so far clarified its position on the forgery nor did the MQM take any action against the accused MNA as both promised to The News on Thursday to get back on the issue.

While the previous National Assembly earned notoriety when hoards of fake graduates were discovered as its members; some of them disqualified only when the Supreme Court took up the matter, the present assembly has added another ‘feather to its cap’ by faking their attendance records.

Electronic Media Reporters Association (EMRA) has written a letter to the NA Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq demanding the video footage of MNA Tahira Asif to establish the claim of her presence in the assembly session on the date and time she allegedly beat Radio Pakistan’s senior producer through her guards in Lahore.

Record of her cellular phone acquired by the police contradicts her claim as she was present at the venue in Lahore where the incident occurred.EMRA has also written to Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid demanding the restoration of Akmal Ghumman who was first harassed by DG Radio Samina Pervez and then suspended when he did not abandon efforts to bring the MQM MNA to justice.

The DG Radio must be directed to “stop interfering into Ghumman’s personal matter even if she cannot stand by him in this time of crisis.”Meanwhile, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, an organisation working on Right to Information (RTI), has renewed its demand from the NA speaker to direct the publication of MNAs’ attendance record on the website.

This is not only the citizens’ right to know about the working of MNAs whose salaries as well as perks and privileges are afforded through public money, this incident of faked attendance also testifies the urgency and importance of publicising record lest somebody abuse it in collusion with the assembly staff, said Zahid Abdullah, Programme Manager of CPDI’s RTI project.

The NA Secretariat has long been refusing the RTI requests seeking attendance details despite the Federal Ombudsman’s orders to make it public. Parliaments in India and UK update attendance record of their MPs on the official websites on daily basis.

As for as EMRA’s letter to the NA speaker is concerned, it highlighted the issue of faked attendance record of MNA Tahira Asif that is “indeed a serious crime” and said that victim journalist Akmal Ghumman has initiated legal proceeding against the MNA.

Now Ghumman is being victimised and made to pass through severe mental torture by the MNA and the DG Radio Pakistan as pressurised by the MNA, reads EMRA letter.

“It is requested that the CCTV footage and the attendance record of the date mentioned may please be made available to EMRA as soon as possible so that it may help Mr Ghumman who is out to seek justice through a legal procedure not only for himself but for a common man,” the letter reads.

The CPDI has joined in condemning this act, saying that if the alleged tampering of attendance record of an MNA is true then it can easily be understood why the National Assembly Secretariat is not only jealously guarding information about the attendance record of Members of National Assembly but goes a step further and declares it personal information.

Responding to CPDI information request filed on April 6, 2012 under the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, seeking information about the attendance record of MNAs during parliamentary year 2011-12, the NA Secretariat denied access to this information on June 28, 2012, saying this information pertained to the privacy of MNAs and that this information did not pertain to matters of public importance.

If such information is proactively disclosed through website in India, the CPDI statement reads, why it cannot be made available to citizens of Pakistan?
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