Lahore: Members of the PILDAT’s Academic Network on RTI, together with the faculty of Government Training Institutes propose a separate and dedicated training module on the Right to Information (RTI) at a Workshop on Designing Curriculums on RTI, organized by PILDAT.
Mr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, Punjab Information Commissioner, who introduced the aim of the Workshop identified that the civil services need to be reoriented to navigate a pro-transparency and open form of government, one that has a Constitutional mandate in Pakistan. Existing curriculums still borrow from outdated legislation such as the Official Secrets Act 1923 and the culture of secrecy or of a need to know basis for disclosure are still very much alive in many government departments across Pakistan. He said that RTI must be looked at as a cross-cutting theme. He said that clause 18 of the Civil Services Rules of Conduct 1964 state that an officer may not disclose information unless directed by a specific or general order of the government. Mr. Ali admitted that the PTRTIA 2013 should have been cross-referenced with existing Service Rules and should have advised/included amendments to these laws. A new training module that captures the spirit of transparency should be included in the training of Pakistan’s civil servants whilst also editing existing courses that call for withholding information to tackle the issue of confusion around conflicting laws and rules of procedure. He further clarified that records held by the Government are still classified, however, RTI provides a window for accessing that information through legal means. RTI authorizes the disclosure of information.
The Workshop concluded with presentations by groups on what an ideal course on RTI should contain for officers posted in Federal and Provincial levels of government. Participants proposed various methods for sensitization including but not limited to workshops, seminars and role-playing activities to put course takers in the shoes of officers implementing the RTI. It was identified that such activities would enable course participants to develop their own solutions for the specific challenges they would face on ground.
Faculty and senior members of staff attended the Workshop from the Management and Professional Development Department, Punjab, the National School of Public Policy, Forman Christian College, Kinnaird College, Bahria University and Beaconhouse National University.
The Workshop on Designing Curriculum on Right to Information was facilitated by PILDAT under the More effective Right-To-Information (RTI) at Federal and Provincial level (Sindh and Punjab) Project, for which PILDAT has received financial support from Development Alternative Inc. (DAI) under the Enhanced Democratic Accountability and Civic Engagement (EDACE) Project.