The new Punjab government of PML-N will pass the Right to Information bill as its first legislation, both Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Rana Sanaullah, senior provincial minister have said. [The News]
In an interview with Truth Tracker, Rana Sanaullah, soon after Election 2013, said the draft of the bill was already passed by the cabinet on March 11, a few days before the government completed its term. He said the bill is the top priority of the government.
According to the Punjab Assembly Rules of Business for the government bill, a minister may introduce a bill after giving to the Secretary a written notice of his intention to do so. The notice shall be accompanied by a copy of the bill together with a statement of objects and reasons, signed by the Minister. The bill should pass easily because PML-N has two-thirds majority in the assembly.
Article 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan (Amendment 2010) guarantees “every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law.” The provincial governments of Sindh and Balochistan have passed provincial information laws while similar actions are still awaited by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.
The draft proposes a commission and procedure for citizens seeking information from the public departments. The commission would take up the application if any citizen is delayed or denied any piece of information. The draft of the law has been prepared with the consultation of different stakeholders in the past three years.
The Punjab Assembly elected Shahbaz Sharif as new chief minister on June 6, 2013. The first session of the Punjab Assembly was the budget session which, according to the procedure of the assembly, is a special session and no other business can be taken up. Truth Tracker expected that PML-N would move the bill for approval by the house in the first regular session as the first bill of new assembly.
In the first regular session started on July 22, the PML-N did not table Right to Information Bill but introduced four other bills including Punjab Local Government Bill 2013, Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture Multan Bill 2013, Punjab Boiler and Pressure Vessels( Amendment) Bill 2013 and Punjab Police Order (Amendment) Ordinance 2013.
Punjab Senior Minister Rana Sanaullah while talking to Truth Tracker on phone said, “We are committed provide access to information to our citizens and media. There might be a procedural delay but we would move the bill very soon.”
“We see lack of political will in passing this law ,” said Zahid Abdullah, information laws project consultant in Islamabad-based Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives. He said his organisation was also consulted during drafting procedure of the bill.
Abdullah said his organizations would continue to pursue the new government to bring this law at the earliest to safeguard the peoples’ right to know.
Truth Tracker is of the view that the PML-N had promised to table Right To Information Bill in the first session to make it a law, but did not, therefore, the promise stands broken.