Pakistan stands pathetically low on list of info-sharing states
This is a discussion on Pakistan stands pathetically low on list of info-sharing states within the RTI News & Discussion forums, part of the RTI News, Circulars and Decisions category; Reported by Umar Cheema in Thenews.com.pk on July 21, 2012 Pakistan stands pathetically low on list of info-sharing states - thenews.com.pk ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has been ranked 72nd whereas neighbouring India ...
- 07-21-2012, 09:43 PM #1
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Pakistan stands pathetically low on list of info-sharing states
Reported by Umar Cheema in Thenews.com.pk on July 21, 2012
Pakistan stands pathetically low on list of info-sharing states - thenews.com.pk
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has been ranked 72nd whereas neighbouring India grabbed the 3rd position in the latest Right to Information (RTI) rating conducted in 90 countries about granting access to public record indicting governmentís denial to the peopleís right to know.
The study jointly carried out by Canada-based Centre for Law and Democracy and Spain-based Access Info Europe has found that other South Asian countries like Bangladesh and Nepal stand far above in RTI rating in comparison to Pakistan that already has earned notoriety through Corruption Index ratings. While Bangladesh has secured 13th position and Nepal stands at 17th position, Pakistan is among the last 20 countries in the Global RTI rating.
Tall promises made by the federal government and Punjab government to introduce laws granting liberal access to the citizens and media to public information have turned out to be hollow. The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting has just woken up and constituted a sub-committee to reconsider ineffective draft bill of former MNA Sherry Rehman and only in the consultation with the Ministry of Information without involving civil society organisations and media.
Again, the Parliament that passed the highly controversial amendment in Contempt of Court Law after only 68 minutes debate is unlikely to proceed with same diligence on Freedom of Information Law. Likewise, provincial governments of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have been sitting on the draft laws since 2010 without making any concrete effort to get it passed from the provincial assemblies. Balochistan and Sindh framed laws in 2006, a pre-requisite for World Bank loans, but they only copied Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, again an effective legislation.
In the RTI rating, two nascent democracies in the Eastern Europe, Serbia and Slovenia, secured first and second positions respectively in the RTI rating. Mexico that is otherwise considered very hostile to journalists due to drug cartels has been ranked at 7th position in the RTI rating. Ethiopia, another country unsafe for journalists due to non-state actors, has earned 10th position. Even Yemen boasts of having liberal access to information as it has been ranked at 20th position.
As far as Pakistanís position is concerned, a recent countrywide survey conducted by a Pakistani NGO, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), to study the effectiveness of the laws pertaining to access to information found that out of 54 departments approached, only two departments provided the required information.
The other 25 departments also responded positively but only after the applicant had to seek the intervention of the federal or provincial ombudsman. Owing to the ineffectiveness ofthe relevant laws, the CPDI demanded of the federal and provincial governments to repeal the existing information laws and enact new ones with strong and effective implementation mechanisms so that the constitutional right to information of the citizens could be ensured.
The CPDI requested the government departments to provide copies of the contracts of the development schemes and projects carried out in financial year 2010-11 along with the details about the utilisation of the development funds. The information requests were submitted to federal, provincial and district government departments in the 1st quarter of 2012 under Article 19-A of the Constitution, Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 and Section 137 of the Local Government Ordinance 2001.
These findings coincide with a recent decision of the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting to constitute a sub-committee for devising a law but only in consultation with the relevant ministry, a move sparking resentment and reservations about the possible outcome of an exercise finalised through bureaucratic input.
The CPDI advocating for RTI has come forward to express its concerns. A press release issued on Friday called for expanding the scope of the sub-committee saying that working with bureaucracy alone at Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is likely to compromise citizensí right to information as the bureaucracy is afflicted with the malaise of dilly-dallying whenever information is sought from government departments under the existing information laws.
Therefore, Senate Committee on Information and Broadcasting should actively engage journalists and citizensí groups in the process of finalising law of right to information, said the press release. This is vitally important as implementation mechanism envisaged in Sherry Rahman private member bill, the one under consideration of the Committee, is equally ineffective as the one envisaged in Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 which the proposed Sherry Rahman information law seeks to repeal.
Realising the fact that ensuring citizensí right to information is a specialised job, countries of the region like Bangladesh, Nepal and India have entrusted the task of protecting this right to independent and autonomous information commissions. Contrary to this, both Sherry Rehmanís private bill and Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 entrust this task to Federal Ombudsman, a body specialised in solving maladministration related issues, which has proved to be a toothless appellate body as it sees the right to information from narrow prism of maladministration issue, said the press release.
The CPDI urges the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting to play its role proactively in enacting an effective right to information law which is at par with those enacted in the region through active involvement of journalists and citizensí groups working in the area of right to information in the country.