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“Right to Information - Global Experiences and Lessons for Pakistan”.

 

INSAF NETWORK PAKISTAN (INP) envisions a society, which promotes rights and legal empowerment of its citizens and disapproves of all forms of abuse, neglect and violence. One of the fundamental right that Insaf Network Pakistan focusing is Article 19A Right to Information of Constitution of Pakistan.

The right to information is a hallmark of liberal democracies the world over. Voters armed with information can make better electoral choices. Informed taxpayers can ensure that the resources meant for them are spent for them. Citizens with information on budgets and public spending can hold service providers to account.

Pakistani citizens were first granted access to Public Information through the “Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002”. The law was applicable only to Federal government departments. Although a step in the right direction, the Ordinance failed to achieve its goals. There was no policy or planning to guide implementation. Officials were not assigned to serve information requests. They were not made aware of their new responsibilities or trained to perform them. There was also very little demand from citizens to use the law, as most ordinary Pakistanis remained unaware of it. More recently, Sindh and KP introduced provincial laws on access to information. Derived from the federal legislation they inherited most of its weaknesses – as well its failures. 

In 2010, the parliament passed the 18th Constitutional amendment which made Right to Information a fundamental constitutional right. This was a highly progressive policy reform. It is rare for state constitutions to guarantee this right.

Article 19A Right to Information of Constitution of Pakistan states “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”.

But the reform was again let down by implementation failure. It did not deliver actual access to information for ordinary Pakistanis. INP intends to raise awareness among citizens on their legal and constitutional rights to information. INP will also advocate for measures by the government to implement laws on ground. More people using the law to request information will build pressure on service providers to make their functions transparent. Civil society and media must lead this push. And INP will play an important role in this effort.

To promote and give awareness on Right to Information, Insaf Network Pakistan organized a Lecture by Toby Mendel on 4th March, 2013. Mr Mendel is the Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy, Canadian-based international human rights NGO that focuses on providing legal expertise regarding foundational rights for democracy, including the right to information, freedom of expression, the right to participate and the rights to assembly and association.

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