To promote the culture of accountability and transparency, the PML-N had in its 2013 manifesto, promised to enact the ‘whistle-blower protection law’. The law provides a safeguard to persons who expose corruption, wrongdoing and other illegalities.
A Whistleblower is a person who exposes a wrongdoing committed by an individual in a private or a public sector organization. The wrongdoing the whistleblower unearths through reporting has the potential to affect the public at large. Whistleblowing is not always appreciated and liked by companies or government that makes them punish the whistleblowers. In most countries, whistle blowers are protected by law, which means they do not lose their job or face discriminatory behaviour at work. A whistleblower can raise his/her concern on any wrongdoing that had happened in the past or would take place in future or is being carried out in the present. Personal grievances such as bullying, harassment and discrimination are not considered whistleblowing complaints. Following are the complaints that count as whistleblowing:
- A criminal offence e.g. fraud.
- Someone’s health and safety is in danger.
- A miscarriage of justice
- The company is breaking the law.
- If someone is covering up wrongdoing.
- Risk or eminent danger to the environment
(Source of list: https://www.gov.uk/whistleblowing/what-is-a-whistleblower)
Under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, Pakistan as a signatory is obliged to legislate on Whistleblowing.
In one of the press releases issued by the National Accountability Bureau of Pakistan, dated 31 January 2015, (http://www.nab.gov.pk/PRESS/NEW.ASP?886) the Chairman NAB, Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, stressed upon the importance of having the Whistleblowing law in Pakistan to promote the culture of accountability and transparency. He said that law should protect courageous people who are prepared to lift the lid on corruption.
India and Bangladesh have already passed the law.
In July 2015, the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights sent the draft of the Whistleblowers Protection Bill 2015, to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the approval of the bill from the cabinet. The bill was prepared in consultation with the NAB, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), and the Federal Investigating Agency (FIA). The bill, however, was never presented in Parliament.
The Senate Select Committee on the Right to Information Bill 2016, wanted to include a clause for Whistle-blowers in the bill, but the idea was later dropped. Some members of the committee and the State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb were not in favour of including the Whistleblowers clause.
However, the FBR included a whistleblower clause in the Benami Transaction Prohibition Bill 2016. Benami assets are those that are not in the owner’s name. These transactions are a source of investment of black money. The FBR had proposed rewarding the Whistle-blowers in the case of credible information leading to the identification of any property brought under a fake name.
Senator Pervez Rashid, the former Federal Minister for Information, told Truth Tracker that Whistleblowing Act should have been formed. “We tried to bring this law, but since we lacked a majority in the Senate, our hands were tied.” Talking about the importance of this law, he said that being a stakeholder in a state every citizen should have the right to speak out if he/she observes corruption in any department or organization with a direct implication on the working of the state business or society. “ Our opponents had a different understanding of a citizen, and therefore we could not get this law become a reality,” said Rashid.
“Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaaf is clear about the necessity of Whistleblowing Act and our party has already enacted the act in KP,” Fawad Chaudhry, the media spokesperson of PTI told Truth Tracker. However, when asked if this law should be passed at the federal level, Chaudhry, was sceptical about its utility considering that laws were either not implemented in Pakistan or had been used for political victimization. He pointed out the Right to Information Act and said that for a government that had been unable to fully apply this law how could we expect it to put in place the Whistleblowing Act.
Senator Saleem Mandviwalla from the PPP told Truth Tracker that the whistleblowing clause had been introduced in a number of other Acts, the problem, he said was that when it comes to implementing the law, the system did not support it. He too pointed out the national government’s inability to get over this tardiness to enforce laws in its true spirit.
Civil right activist Jibran Nasir said that if KP could make a law on whistleblowing in spite of the fact that the government had to face many impediments due to not very friendly bureaucracy, then it should not be a difficult job for the other provinces especially Punjab. However, he added that since the PML-N government knows that its hands were not clean, which had been proven over the last few months especially during the Panama episode, the government, Nasir further elaborated, would resist making the whistleblowing law. “There is otherwise a lack of independent monitoring system to oversee the activities of the government, in this vacuum having a whistleblowing law becomes all the more imperative,” Nasir said.
Going forward, Nasir told Truth Tracker that he was sure that there must be many people, with evidence in hand, desiring to expose the corruption of the sitting government, but due to lack of legal protection, they do not come forward.
“The whistleblowing law would not only protect the whistleblowers it would as well tell them how far they could go in exposing the wrongdoing of the government or an organization,” argued Nasir.
The conclusion drawn from the above discussion is that the government has failed in fulfilling its promise of enacting the whistleblowing law after coming into power.