Have you ever felt weak and hopeless in front of government institutions in Pakistan? Have you ever performed excellent in an exam but later the mark-sheet displayed opposite? Have you ever been disqualified from a job despite of your success in tests and interviews? Are you a senior citizen waiting for post-retirement allowances and allotment of pension? Have you ever felt that, you cannot question the decisions of government institutions and your voice can never enter the doors of public bodies? Right to information (RTI) is a powerful tool to solve such problems; RTI can break the wheel of secrecy and authoritarianism.
Article 19-A of Constitution of Pakistan; protects citizen’s fundamental human right to know. It states that:
“Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulations and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.”
Through Article 19-A, citizens of Pakistan can have access to information held by the government departments. All over the world, democratic states empower its citizens by protecting their fundamental human right to know. This in turn, helps to promote transparency in government affairs, endorse citizen participation in policy making, enhances people’s confidence in the performance of government bodies and last but not the least, solves the issues of service delivery faced by common man. Though RTI is the fundamental human right but it is not an absolute right. According to federal and provincial right to information laws applicable in Pakistan, exempted information covers the subjects of defence and security matters, commercial matters which can affect economy of the state and breach of privacy etc. Rest of the information can be acquired through RTI.
People’s access to information held by government departments is significant because a major part of government’ revenue is collected from the taxes paid by common people. Therefore, common people are the owners and it is their right to know that where the money is going and how is it being used? Government works for the benefit of public, so one way or another all the information that government holds is related to us.
It is unfortunate that the implementation of RTI Laws in Pakistan is not satisfactory. Despite of enacting strong and progressive RTI laws, implementation is a big question especially in the province of Balochistan and Sindh. On the other hand, federal government and provincial governments of KP and Punjab are making continuous efforts to properly implement their respective RTI laws.
Lack of awareness about social and political rights in Pakistan is the reason of failure of RTI regime. It is high time that government, media and civil society in Pakistan join hands to raise awareness about RTI among masses. Now, citizens of Pakistan should be enabled and empowered to call for their fundamental human right to know because.
Syeda Raheela Bano (Guest Blogger)
Note: The views expressed by guest blogger and the comments given by any visitor do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Pakvoter.