January 28, Lahore: An Academic Network on Right to Information (ANoRTI) was launched here today as a result of a two-day Briefing to Academia on the state of RTI in Pakistan, organized by Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency.
The purpose of this network is to create a community of academics who will study and invoke RTI for its effective implementation and liaison with relevant government agencies,” said Dr. Amna Mahmood, head of the Political Science & International Relations Department at International Islamic University (Islamabad) and Convener of the newly formed network. “Through this platform, we hope to de-mystify Right to Information in the minds of both its users, like ordinary citizens and civil society, as well as public bodies and implementation agencies on whom the law is applicable.”
Dr. Mahmood convened the first meeting of ANoRTI, which was attended by senior academicians including Dr. Syed Rifaat Hussain, Head of Department of Economics, National University of Science and Technology, Islamabad; Dr. Mansoor Kundi, Professor, International Islamic University, Islamabad; Dr. Sarfaraz Khan, Director, Area Studies Centre, University of Peshawar; Professor Dr. Muhammad Shafique, Chairperson, Department of History, Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan; Amjad Mahmood, Director General, National Institute of Management, Islamabad; and Naeem ul Haq, Rector, National Institute of Management, Lahore.
Over 60 academicians from Islamabad, Lahore, Multan and Peshawar participated in the Briefing organised to generate an informed debate on how to improve implementation of RTI in Pakistan at Federal and Provincial levels. Participants also included Faculty from Kinnaird College for Women; International Islamic University Islamabad; Bahauddin Zakariya University, Institute of Management Sciences, Peshawar; Forman Christian College, Quaid-e-Azam University; National University of Science and Technology (NUST); Bahria University; Beaconhouse National University; University of Punjab; as well as Director-level staff of the National School of Public Policy, Management and Professional Development Department, Lahore; and the National Institute of Management, Islamabad.
Earlier in the day, Ms. Anjali Bhardwaj, Co-convener, National Campaign of Peoples’ Right to Information, New Delhi, presented on the evolution and role of RTI reforms movement in promoting transparency and accountability in the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. She also showed a documentary produced by Satrik Nagrik Sangathan, India, entitled Using RTI to Promote Political Accountability.
“The success of the RTI movement in India was achieved by linking RTI with the basic information needs of citizens for better service delivery and representation in relevant legislatures,” said Ms. Bhardwaj during her presentation She also highlighted the way forward for RTI reforms in India, by focusing on the passage of Anti-Corruption, Whistleblower Protection and Grievance Redressal laws.
In a session on the Progress and Challenges in RTI Implementation, Shehryar Memon, Deputy Secretary, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Reform and Implementation Cell, briefed the participants on the groundbreaking Performance Management Cell portal launched by the Office of KP Chief Secretary, under which data on the performance of Provincial Government Departments is being proactively disclosed for public scrutiny. He also demonstrated use of the Citizen’s Portal, under which complaints from citizens relating to social service delivery can be tracked online and resolved expeditiously.
In a session entitled “Using RTI in Research on Democracy and Governance”, Special Correspondent, Geo News, Azaz Syed, and shared his experiences in requesting information from the Federal and Provincial Governments. Referring to a request for information on the number of schools in the various federating units of Pakistan, he said that the Provinces with independent Information Commissions and modern RTI laws were far more responsive in handling his information requests.
The Briefing to Pakistani academia on the state of RTI and
its implementation was organised by PILDAT under the More effective Right-To-Information
(RTI) at Federal and Provincial level (Sindh and Punjab) Project, for which
it has received financial support from Development Alternative Inc. (DAI) under
the Enhanced Democratic Accountability and Civic Engagement (EDACE) Project.
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