Right to Information

Implementation of RTI laws crucial in bringing transparency in the governance system

RAWALPINDI: Speakers at a seminar on Right to Information were in consensus that transparency in the administrative system is key to development in any civilized nation and that the RTI law can play a great role in bringing transparency in Pakistan’s governance system but for this sincerity and dedication of public representatives and public office holders is a must.

They observed that Pakistan has yet to ensure effective utilization of RTI laws, adding that ‘missing interest of the state representatives’ is the main contributing factor in its poor implementation.

The awareness seminar was organized by Punjab Information Commission (PIC) to sensitize the top-level bureaucracy and designated Public Information Officers (PIOs) of public departments in Rawalpindi district on the Right to Information Act.

The designated officers were briefed on the importance of right to information law for public as well as public office holders. The RTI law is not only to hold the government officers accountable but it benefits to them as well, said Senior journalist Azaz Syed.

Azaz Syed informed the officers that if they find any irregularity and nepotism in their promotions at their administrative level, they can use this law as well to expose such irregularities.

District and Session Judge Tariq Javed, Chief Information Commissioner –  Pakistan Information Commission – Mohammad Azam, Punjab Chief Information Commissioner Mehboob Qadir, Deputy Commissioner Rawalpindi Capt. Anwar ul Haq, civil society representatives and government officers attended the seminar.

District and Session Judge Tariq Javed said they were working on the effective implementation of the law and will enhance their efforts to benefit the common public.

Speaking the participants, Mehboob Qadir from Punjab Information Commission said the RTI law is very clear and beneficial to public and government officers both but what can make this possible through its successful implementation.

Qadir further said there is a need to change the feudal mind set of public office holders and people, adding that we have observed in the past that people sitting in the public offices considered their responsibilities as property, adding that real owner is common public.

Mohammad Azam – Chief Information Commissioner PIC – said the colonial mind set is major hindrance before the effective implementation of the RTI law, adding that some insinuations were putting efforts to exclude themselves from this law.

Mohammad Azam said we talk about corruptions in the governance system and ‘its true’ as well but because we don’t follow SOPs. He emphasized that implementation of this law in letter and spirit can bringing transparency in the governance system which will be beneficial to both state and its people. Mohammad Azam said although this is tough but not impossible if we put our sincere efforts.

We need to change mind set of the society which is the real owner of the state documents, added Mehboob Qadir.

Qadir said citizen should have the right of access to information what the public representatives in the Parliament have access.

Freedom of expression and freedom to have access to information are the basic rights of any nation, Azaz Syed said.

Qadir said certain amendments were needed which can enhance effectiveness of the law but unfortunately could not be made so far due to various push and pull factors.

We are in power just because of the public wealth, adding that every single person is your owner, Mehboob Qadir told the designated officers. Pay respect to the common public and their rights, added.

Rights activist said Syed Kausar Abbas said information request doesn’t mean that public is trying to degrade the government officers but to bring transparency in the execution of development projects.

We don’t challenge you but want to help you in bringing transparency in the governance system, Kausar Abbas maintained.

PIC Chief Mohammad Azam said RTI law is an obligation, adding that Pakistan is on 32  in the list of 130 countries obligating the RTI law. Our neighboring country, including India, are ahead of us in the rating of the Right to Information laws, Mohammad Azam added.

The right to information laws oversight the previous laws creating hurdles in having access to information, he added.

Rights activist Aftab Alam emphasized change in the bureaucratic mind set and appraised the performance of the Commission.

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