Govt on way to achieve another milestone

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ISLAMABAD, May 15 (APP): Amidst landmark strides made in the arena of economy, stock market and infrastructure development projects like China Pakistan Economic Corridor, the government on Monday achieved another milestone by introducing long awaited Right of Access to Information Bill in the parliament.
With marathon deliberations on the bill at various forums for over one and a half years, the government moved the bill to the Senate with an aim to promote the right of access to information, and facilitate and encourage promptly the disclosure of information at the lowest and reasonable cost.
Once the bill becomes an act of the parliament, it will facilitate every Pakistani to have access to information on working of the federal
government’s ministries, divisions and subordinate offices, including autonomous bodies, subject only to reasonable restrictions imposed by
the law.
“The government believes in transparency and right to have access to information to ensure that the people have improved access to records held by public authorities and promote the purpose of making the government more accountable to its people,” stated the bill presented to the House by Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Marriyum Auranzeb.
The act that may be called the Right of Access to Information Act 2017, also ensures to making the government more accountable to its people, improving participation of people in public affairs, reducing corruption and inefficiency, and promoting sound economic growth and good governance and respect for human rights.
“The proposed bill is intended to promote a two-way flow of information; 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 recognizes this right as a fundamental human right,” stated the Minister of State for Information in the objects and reasons of the bill.
“Access to information is an inalienable birth right of an individual and is universally recognized in a democratic dispensation,” she mentioned. “It is an essential pre-requisite to the people’s realization of their ideals of good and transparent governance, for which it is necessary to ensure that the citizens of Pakistan should have the fullest possible access to public records.”
The exercise on this bill had started way back in January 2016 when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had constituted a five-member ministerial committee to formulate revised drat Right to Information Bill 2016 through a Cabinet Division memorandum of January 11, 2016.
The committee held five meetings and the amended draft was sent to the Law Division on March 15, 2016. After the vetting, the government deemed fit further deliberation on the draft by legal experts like Law Minister Zahid Hamid, Barrister Zafarullah, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Human Rights, Attorney General of Pakistan, besides experts from the Ministry of Information.
The sincerity of the government to bring in a comprehensive piece of legislation is evident from the series of meetings and deliberations held at the Law Division and other pedestals. Nine meetings in the series and many more deliberation sessions played a vital role in introducing this important bill in the Parliament.
It is pertinent to mention that subject to provisions of the proposed act, each public body shall maintain its record properly to comply with the obligations of this act and shall bring its record management practices in line with Secretariat Instruction-2004 or any other instructions by the federal government.
Since the opposition had been targeting the government functionaries on charges for allegedly concealing information the PML-N led government has come out with a concrete piece of legislation to ensure no valid information is concealed and transparency is guaranteed in governance and policies.
Thus it is a telling reply to the critics as the government has itself come forward to make public record of its functioning and decisions.
As the Senate Chairman has referred the bill to the committee concerned of the Senate for deliberations, it is hoped that the bill shall be passed sooner to enable Pakistani citizens to have access to information about working of various ministries and divisions.
This practice will give them opportunity for feedback on the government policies and promote among them a sense of ownership of the government decisions.