RTI law step forward for accountable governance

farhatISLAMABAD: The recently-passed Right to Information (RTI) Act will be significant step forward for transparency and accountability of the government but the real challenge lies in changing the mindset and culture of secrecy surrounding information at every level.
This was stated by Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar while speaking at a seminar on Right to information — A step forward for better governance, at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Monday.
Senator Babar said that the current system of governance was steeped in secretiveness and a general trend of shying away from takingresponsibility and being accountable.
In this regard, he said that people must remain vigilant about the fact that some elements would continue resisting what he termed as the “progressive development” of the RTI act and would make every effort to revoke it.
Talking about the features of the new law, he explained that the act did not offer blanket exemptions in the name of national security and that they had tried to strike a balance between national security and public interest.
Earlier, Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS) Executive Director Zafarullah Khan highlighted the painstaking, years-long process that led to the current law.
He added that this was the first such law approved by parliament which had been finalised with consensus from all major political parties.
However, he admitted that there were a number of areas which could be improved on or amended later but as a start, the passage of the law from the parliament should be taken as a huge step forward.
He said that for the successful implementation of the law, all the officers from government ministries and departments should be educated about the law, the processes and procedures involved and their respective duties in this regard.
Moreover, he said, it would be imperative to translate the law in Urdu and regional languages.
Senior journalist and analyst Muhammad Ziauddin said awareness was a key factor for the successful implementation of the RTI law.
“Unfortunately, we do not have a culture of asking questions to evolve clarity on any issue. Therefore, media and civil society would have an important role to play in making this law successful whereas media houses should come forward and arrange specific training for their reporters so that they could use this law to obtain information and to serve the public interest effectively,” he concluded.
Source: The Express Tribune

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