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December 24, 2015

‘Despite flaws, Sindh FOI law can still empower citizens’

Karachi

 
December 24, 2015

Karachi

Despites its inherent flaws, the provincial right to information law — if used — has the potential to empower citizens to a much higher degree and help improve on the current transparency and accountability levels in governance and all other related matters. 

The reason this law could bring about a possible change is that it basically aims at helping citizens of Pakistan exercise their right to data and information regarding matters of state and governance.

This was stated by Dr Raza Gardezi, who leads the Freedom of Information (FOI) team of Shehri-CBE. Speaking at a consultancy forum titled “Citizens’ voice for strengthening transparency and accountability mechanisms” on the FOI Act on Tuesday, he cited the report of the Centre For Law and Democracy, according to which the present legislation enacted by federal, Balochistan and Sindh governments ranked 76 in the world.

However, he asserted that despite the flaws in the legislation, it could still empower the people if they used it correctly.

During the session Dr Gardezi also informed the participants about the correct way to fill out the application under FOI ordinance enacted in the province and apprised them of what type of information could be accessed and requested by the people.

According to him, when a government department was requested to provide information it was bound to respond within 21 days. He explained to the participants in detail the process of filing an FOI application and the salient features of writing it.

On the occasion, he also announced that Shehri had formed a coalition of around 25 NGOs demanding to repeal the existing Sindh Freedom of Information Act 2006 because it had failed to deliver the right of information of a citizen.

“We demand the implementation of Sindh Right to Information Bill 2015 which has been drafted under the banner of ‘Coalition on Transparency and Access to Information’, after extensive and detailed deliberations,” he said. “The draft has been declared by the Centre for Law and Democracy as the best FOI document of recent times.”  

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