Call to respect Right to Information Law for transparency in election season

Islamabad: In the election season it is imperative that the right to information law is respected by all public bodies to promote transparency and accountability as elements for free and fair elections. However, The Right to Information Act 2017 is not being respected by powerful quarters which is encouraging the entire bureaucracy to flout the law and avoid transparency.

This has been stated by President Human Rights Cell of PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar in a statement Monday.

He said that the Ministry of defence has been refusing to provide information about the post retirement perks and privileges of defence officers for the last over three years on the ground that it was a security matter and could not be made public. He said that Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) declared that the required information did not come under the ambit of ‘security matter’ and ordered that it be placed on the web site of the Defence Ministry.

However the order of the PIC and repeated reminders thereafter has been continuously ignored. “This does not throw a bright light on the ministry and raises several questions”.

He said that in October last a 3-member bench headed by new CJP Qazi Faez Isa ordered that information about Court’s employees be given to a petitioner stating that right to information was a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution. Previously the Court had all along declined to provide this information.

Encouraged by this gesture of the Supreme Court the defence ministry was again requested to provide the information initially sought in 2020 but the response was a deafening silence.

The continued disrespect of the law by the powerful is not only highly disappointing but also a matter of serious concern as it has made redundant the very law passed by the Parliament to ensure transparency and accountability, he said.

“Democracy rests on the tripod of transparency, accountability and rule of law. Avoiding transparency and flouting the rule of law undermines democracy & parliament, accentuates despondency and widens the gulf between the state and citizen”

Farhatullah Babar also called for urgently setting up of Balochistan Information Commission in accordance with “The Right to Information Act” 2021 passed in February that year.

He said that the absence of the Commission has made the Act redundant and the people of Balochistan have no forum to appeal against provincial bureaucracy refusal to provide information.

During the election season it is imperative that the people of Balochistan are also enabled to ask questions from public bodies to ensure transparency and accountability, he said.