Mar 142017

The Sindh Assembly is praised for passing the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Bill, 2016 on March 14. The Bill will replace the Sindh Freedom of Information Act 2006 and provide better facilitation to citizens in their quest for information, which is a requirement of democratic states. The requirement is also highlighted in Article 19A of the Constitution of Pakistan. Although a bit late to the party when it comes to access to information, Sindh’s lawmakers are commended on their sound decision-making, at last. A basic tenet of democracy is accountability. Additionally, throughout the existence of this country, citizens have been brainwashed and made to follow what they are exposed to in the mainstream. It is rare that they are given the confidence to inquire and demand facts and figures from the leaders who pressurise naive men and women to vote for them. Ergo, citizens are finally being given power, as they should rightfully wield in a democracy, to demand answers and seek out the truth from the government.

Time and again, we have heard cases of people being silenced or mysterious kidnappings after they asked questions that made others uncomfortable. While the new bill can give citizens confidence to also speak up and demand accountability, there should also be some provision for the protection of those who come forth. This is to say that one should feel secure in requesting access to information, free from the fear of subsequently receiving threats. One note that is appreciable about the Right to Information Bill 2016, especially when it comes to the operations of government in this country, is that it places a time cap and outlines consequences for officials if requests are not responded to within 15 days. Now, the government should consider using the Internet to swiftly disseminate requested information.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2017.

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