Pakistan needs a strong Federal RTI law to guarantee the constitutional Right to Information: Members of the Academic Network on Right to Information

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Islamabad, February 11: Pakistan needs a strong RTI at the Federal level to adequately ensure citizens’ constitutional right to access information held by government. This was agreed at a meeting of Pakistan’s first Academic Network on Right to Information (ANoRTI).

Mr. Toby Mendel, Executive Director, Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) was invited by PILDAT to apprise members of the ANoRTI on the Global RTI Ratings series, which is an initiative of CLD that comparatively assesses over a 100 RTI laws in the world. Pakistan is currently ranked 84th in the world within this scheme of ratings.

Speaking about why the CLD focuses on ranking different RTI laws in the world, Mr. Mendel said, “A strong law may not guarantee effective implementation of the Right to Information; however, it does help in the formation and sustainability of a robust implementation mechanism for this all-important right.” He also said that civil society and media were important stakeholders in the RTI movement as they could generate pressure on the government for passage of a robust RTI law.

Members of the ANoRTI attending the meeting discussed how to expedite the passage of Pakistan’s internationally acclaimed RTI Bill, which is currently being reviewed by a 5-member Committee appointed by the Federal Government. In the context of Pakistan, they also favoured the establishment of a dedicated Information Commission that has adequate powers to ensure compliance of the RTI law within the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government.

The meeting was attended by a number of prominent academicians and media persons, including Brig. Dr. Muhammad Khan, Head of International Relations Department, National Defense University, Dr. Mansoor Kundi, Professor of International Relations, International Islamic University Islamabad, Dr. Syed Rifaat Hussain, Head of Social Sciences and Humanities, National University of Science and Technology, Mr. Mateen Haider, Senior Correspondent, Dawn News, Mr. M Ziaudding, Senior Columnist, Jang News, Mr. Maqbool Malik, Chief Reporter, The Nation, Mr. Azaz Syed, Senior Correspondent, GEO News, and Mr. Raza Abid, Chief Reporter, Roze TV.

The Academic Network on Right to Information (ANoRTI) is a consortium of Academics, Government Training Institutes, and the Information Commissions of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa dedicated to studying RTI in Pakistan. It is facilitated 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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