’RTI law key to preserving fundamental rights of citizens’

MULTAN::Pakistan’s first Chief Information Commissioner Muhammad Azam has said that Right to Information (RTI) law was key to safeguarding all fundamental rights of citizens and its suitable utilization brings transparency to functioning of government departments and governance.

Talking to the media at Multan Press Club, the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) chief said, it was heartening to see Pakistan ranked 30th in the world with regard to access to information, adding that such laws were enforced and in practice in 130 countries where these were helpful in bringing transparency to affairs of government departments.

Azam said, it was the right of every Pakistani to have access to information and urged the citizens to benefit from this law that was enacted in 2017 and could serve as a tool to get information they required to proceed forward to have their rights preserved.

He said that citizens could file application with PIC and the required information would be provided within seven days.

The chief commissioner said that over 100 government departments had deputed officials as public information officers on the advocacy by PIC and these officials were duty bound to provide relevant information to citizens on their request. Muhammad Azam said that awareness among the people on this law was comparatively low but added the situation was improving by each passing day in the country.

Hiding official documents was no more easy due to RTI law and departments were now bound to provide details regarding use of taxpayers’ money to the people on their request, he added.

He further said that a proposal to enable officers present their point of view via Skype video call service was under consideration so that expenses on TA/DA and time could be saved.

He, however, said that information concerning country’s defense, any information that could affect negatively relations between two countries, and personal information about any individual were not included in the domain of PIC.

However, information other than the aforementioned three categories, could be obtained by the citizens. Information commission has started proceedings on application written even on a plain paper by any individual, Azam said adding that proposals were under consideration to enable citizens file requests online.

Director General PID Lahore Saeed Ahmad Sheikh and other PIC officials were also present.