The Coalition on Right to Information (CRTI), an 18-member amalgamation of civil society organisations, passed on a declaration on Wednesday called upon all the political parties for giving priority to legislation on right to information in their respective manifestos.
During a conference titled ‘Right to Information Legislation and Manifestos of Political Parties’ speakers shed light on the significance of right to information in a democratic set-up to ensure transparency and to make the authorities answerable to their electorate.
The moot was chaired by Provincial Commission on Status of Women Chairperson Zubaida Khatoon. She noted with concern that the political elite has no interest in making laws relating to right to information. She added that the culture of sharing information should be developed in Pakistan, which is a sine qua none for smooth running of democratic system in the country.
Making analysis of the manifestos of the political parties, keynote speaker Muhammad Aftab Alam executive director of Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (Irada) said Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) has incorporated freedom of information in freedom of press and expression and there is no separate mention of right to information in its manifesto.
The manifesto of Pakistan Muslim League (PML), he added, limits the right of access to information as the right of access to information is only provided to members of standing committees of parliament. While, in the manifesto of PML-Nawaz, there is commitment of improvement in freedom of Information law.
“The manifesto of Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) only talks about transparency and there is no clear provision regarding legislation on right to information,” Aftab Alam said. Similarly, he added, the political commitment of Awami National Party (ANP) is also restricted to association and freedom of speech. “It is only the manifesto of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) that talks about the enhanced access to information by reviewing the right to information laws.
Earlier, CRTI Co-ordinator Zahid Abduallh shed light on the objectives of the coalition. He said that CRTI is a forum of 18 civil society organisations which is working on enactment of right to information laws in line with the best international practices of right to information legislation and implementation of existing information laws. “The tenure of the present assemblies is coming to a close, but political parties in power both at provincial and federal level have not carried legislation to protect and promote citizens’ right of access to information,” he said.