Karachi:(APS) November 05- Members of the Provincial Assembly (MPAs) of Sindh and media persons attending a one-day Briefing Session on the ‘State of Right to Information in Pakistan’ were urged by the Information Commissioners from Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP) and Punjab to push for the reform of the outdated Sindh Freedom of Information Act 2006.
Organized by PILDAT, the lively briefing session was attended by MPAs from the PPPP, PML-F and MQM and journalists from print and television media. The Panel for the Session was chaired by Mr. Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Provincial Minister of Information, Sindh, and also included the participation of Mr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, Punjab Information Commissioner, and Mr. Abdul Matin Khan, KP Information Commissioner.
Provincial Minister of Information, Mr. Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, informed the audience that the process of amending the outdated Sindh Freedom of Information Act 2006 was already underway, and assured its expedited passage through the Provincial Assembly. He explained that the amended RTI law contained important provisions which would make it more responsive and effective in meeting public demand for official transparency and public accountability. He felt that information on government was available in Pakistan, but problems of consolidating and using were still being faced. He was also of the view that effective implementation of RTI was a slow process. “Making RTI more effective will require collaboration between citizens, media and legislators. We must all support each other to ensure the right to know.”
KP Information Commissioner, Mr. Abdul Matin Khan, and Punjab Information Commissioner, Mr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, briefed the participants on what the new RTI laws in their respective provinces had achieved despite obstacles. They also called on the news media in Sindh to participate in the growing movement for RTI reforms in Pakistan.
Mrs. Mahtab Rashidi, MPA (Women-156, PML-F), was of the opinion that implementation of the RTI in Sindh was lax and much attention needs to be given to the implementation of the existing Sindh Freedom of Information Ordinance 2006, as every citizen has the right to know how public money is spent.
Dr. Huma Baqai expressed concern over the state of RTI in Sindh, and said that actions further than mere lip-service to the idea need to be undertaken by political parties. Senior Journalist, Mr. Mubashar Zaidi stressed the need for a new RTI law, saying that information from the government is the media’s bread and butter.
While opening the Briefing Session, Ms. Aasiya Riaz, Joint Director PILDAT, spoke about the power of RTI to transform the face of government, Ms. Riaz quoted the example of PILDAT’s information request under the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 for access to MNA attendance records, due to which the voluntary disclosure of these records has become a norm within legislatures of Pakistan.
During the event PILDAT provided the audience with various publications on RTI, including Briefing Papers on Right to Information and the News Media (Sindhi Version), Activating the Right to Information in South Asia (Sindh Version), a Policy Brief on Effective Legislation on Right to Information, a Legislative Brief on Sindh Freedom of Information Legislation as well as Key Messages for Media on RTI and Key Messages for Legislators on RTI.
Mrs. Mahtab Akbar Rashidi, MPA (Women-156, PML-F), Mr. Syed Khalid Ahmed, MPA (PS-122, KARACHI-XXXIV, MQM) Mr. Shafi Muhammad Jamot, MPA (PS-129, KARACHI-XLI, PML-N), Dr. Lal Chnad Ukrani. MPA (Minorities-160, PPPP), Ms. Shaheena Sher Ali, MPA (Women-141, PPPP), Ms. Ghazala Siyal, MPA (Women-42, PPPP) attended the Briefing Session. Senior Journalists andcolumnists such as Mr. Ghazi Salahuddin, Ms. Huma Baqai, Mr. Waseem Badami, ARY News, Mr. Mubashar Zaidi, Dawn, Mr Asghar Azeem, Daily Jinnah, Ms. Rafia Haider, Associated Press of Pakistan, Mr. Abdul Abdul Jaffar, Roznama Dunya and Mr. Kamran Chauhan, Daily Pakistan were also in attendance.
The one-day Briefing Session for MPAs in Sindh and News Media on the State of Right to Information in Pakistan was organized by PILDAT under the “More effective Right-To-Information (RTI) at Federal and Provincial level (Sindh and Punjab)” project, which is supported by Development Alternative Inc. (DAI) under the Enhanced Democratic Accountability and Civic Engagement (EDACE) project.