Right to Information fundamental right of citizens, moot told

KARACHI: Speakers or a moot here Saturday said that Article 19-A of the constitution of Pakistan provides a framework for promoting interface between the citizens and the government to known the right way to know about their right for discussing their personal or social matters.

They said the article, which should be known as freedom of information article, gives full right and authority to citizens for being capable of analyze and raise their issues before government officials.

They were speaking at a session entitled “Citizens’ Capacity Building for government officials” organized by Shehri-Citizen for a Better Environment (CBE), under the banners of Voice for Strengthening Transparency and Accountability Mechanism at a local hotel.

Sindh Assembly Legislation Secretary Aslam Shaikh, Deputy Collector Customs Ali Sipra, Deputy Commissioner West’s Media Coordinator Mazhar Imam, Karachi Municipal Corporation Additional Director Media Management Department Misbah Iqbal, Abid Ali Syed were present.

The officials said the term Freedom of Information (FOI) or Right to Information (RTI) actually describes the fundamental right of common citizens as he or she could enable him or her with targeted information. They accepted that there is no such trend to get information from the government departments and it looks very difficult to fulfil the formalities of getting such knowledge.

They said every department is bound to provide required information of any issue like most of people want to know that why the heritages having become useless, the process of government department who they run or works, etc.

One of the officials, discussing the laws of freedom of information enacted in different parts of the world, said 90 countries so far had enacted the freedom of information law, adding Sweden was the first country that enacted such law back in 1766. Later, other countries including USA, Australia and Philippines enacted these laws.

He said Pakistan in 2002 was first country in the South Asia to introduce such law in the shape of Freedom of Information Act, which was followed by India in 2005.

Speakers said the article 19-A provides three basic lists of public record, non-public record and list of information exempted from the disclosure which deal with different issues of public. They said no private bodies come under this Act as only the ministries of the Government comes under the Act, to provide required information to public through their designated officers.

Shehri-CBE Project director Dr Raza Ali Gardezi said his organization is trying its best to facilitate good governance by advocating transparency in the government functions and advocating an active role of the citizens in protecting of their fundamental rights in the light of constitution.

He said increasing awareness in the government officials about this law will not only help in improving their performances, but also will bring a constructive change in the system.

Saima Adeel said Shehri-CBE’s mandate is to promote the policies and action of government laws which makes living environment conducive to happiness.