Govt fulfils its pledge through Access to Information Bill: Marriyum

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ISLAMABAD, Aug 22 (APP): Minister of State for Information,
Broadcasting and National Heritage Ms Marriyum Aurangzeb speaking in
the Senate while presenting the Right for Access to Information Bill,
2017 which was unanimously passed by the house Tuesday said that the
PML-N government had fulfilled yet another pledge by bringing the
concerned legislation.
The minister said that an ordinance known as Freedom of Information
Ordinance 2002 was already in vogue but this bill was a consensus
document which entirely covered Article 19-A of the Constitution which
said,”Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information
in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.”
She observed that according to the Statement of Objects and Reasons,
the bill was intended to promote a two-way flow of information i.e. from
the government to people and vice versa for strengthening and
safeguarding the public’s “Right to know”, especially in the backdrop of Article 19-A of the Constitution which explicitly recognized this right
as a fundamental right.
She said that the former Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had
constituted a ministerial committee following which a Select Committee
was constituted for further consideration of the bill.
Marriyum observed that Provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab had
also introduced the right to information bills in 2013.
She said that this bill at the federal level would ensure access to
information to every citizen, promote good governance and oversight of
the institutions as well as transparency in matters relating to governance.
The minister highlighted various aspects of the bill and also
appreciated the efforts of the members of Select Committee and Standing Committee on Information who gave their valuable inputs and feedback on
the bill.
She said that Senator Kamil Ali Agha had also introduced a private
member bill identical to it while Senator Farhat Ullah Babar worked hard
on this legislative proposal for which he deserved congratulations.
She said that the issue of national security was of great importance,
adding that public interest had also been taken care of so that required information could not be denied to the citizens.
She said that a timeline had been defined for providing information and
solid reasons would have to be given in case of denial of any information.
The minister said that through the passage of this bill, PML-N had
fulfilled yet another commitment made in its manifesto of 2013.
Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani congratulated the house over passage
of the bill and said that the parliament was the only forum where every stakeholder could present his viewpoint and develop consensus on important national issues.
Senator Farhat Ullah Babar said that all political parties and other
stakeholders had agreed on the bill and no one could decline to provide required information on any pretext.
Senators Kamil Ali Agha, Azam Swati and Sassi Palejo also appreciated
the efforts of the government with respect to the bill and termed it a consensus document.
Later talking to the media, the minister said that the PML-N
government had fulfilled its pledge for introducing Access to Information Bill, which enjoyed consensus of all the political parties.
She said that the bill would ensure access to information in a
transparent and effective matter. Marriyum said that the government was determined to promote transparency in consonance with the vision of the former Prime Minister. She said that during the last four years not a
single case of corruption had been unearthed.
The minister said that the bill had three parts in which the interest
of the public had been secured and the parliamentary oversight had been ensured through the formation of Information Commission. She said that
the five-member parliamentary committee would consist of three members of the National Assembly and two from the upper house.
She revealed that according to the bill it would be mandatory to
provide the sought information within ten days and in case of withholding the information cogent reason would have to be given.
The minister said that the public functionaries denying access to
information would be awarded two years imprisonment and a fine of upto rupees one hundred thousand.
Elaborating further she said that salary of the officer delaying the
information beyond the stipulated period would be deducted on daily basis.
The information concerning somebody’s life and liberty would be
provided within three days, she added.
The minister said that the journalists would be the greatest
beneficiary of the bill as it would enable them to present real and comprehensive facts before the public.
Marriyum said that the parliament deserved congratulation for unanimous
passage of the bill adding that it would now be laid before the National Assembly during the next session.
The minister reiterated that the said legislation would strengthen
democracy as it had been drafted in consultation with all the stakeholders which was a welcome development. She said that the bill would ensure direct participation of the people in the process of transparency.
Responding to a question, the minister observed that difference of
opinion was the beauty of democracy and the process of dialogue in a democracy should continue.
In response to a question about the statement of the US President,
she said that the foreign minister would issue a detailed statement on
it. She said that the entire world knew that Pakistan had rendered unparalleled sacrifices in the war against terrorism and due to the
measures adopted in line with the vision of the former Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif the incidents of terrorism had gone down
considerably.
She also paid tribute to the armed forces, law enforcing agencies
and the people for their infallible sacrifices.
The issue of national security is of great importance, the minister
said, adding that public interest had been also been included in it so
that required information could not be denied to the citizens.
She said that timeline had been defined for providing information and
solid reasons would have to be given in case of denial to any information.
Through the passage of this bill, the minister said that PML-N has
fulfilled its another commitment made in its manifesto of 2013.