Participants in a meeting expressed concern over the dysfunctional Sindh Information Commission and demanded that the provincial government appoint a Chief Information Commissioner and two Information Commissioners to the body.
They also demanded that the government take appropriate measures to draft, approve and notify the rules of service of the information commission so that it can recruit staff to carry out its functions, and in the meantime, the government should provide the necessary personnel for the body.
The Coalition for the Right to Information (RCTI) held a meeting in Karachi attended by the Executive Director of the Center for Peace and Development Initiatives, Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, the RTI activist, Dr. Raza Ali Gardei, Owais Aslam of the Pakistan Press Foundation, Shumaila Shahani of Bolo Bhi, Junaid Khan of the Peace Education Foundation and others.
The Sindh Transparency and Right to Know Act 2016 was enacted in March 2017 and subsequently ratified by the Governor in April to ensure transparency and accountability of public officials in matters of importance public.
Under the law, citizens can request information from government departments, which are required to provide the information within 15 working days. However, the meeting pointed out that the implementation of the law remained difficult. Due to delays in appointing Information Commissioners, the commission has remained dysfunctional since May 30, 2021.
The meeting pointed out that the designation of Public Information Officers (PIOs) is also lagging behind and not designated under Section 7 of the Act, and the dysfunctional commission therefore deprives citizens of the exercise of their fundamental right of access to information guaranteed by the constitution of the campaign.
They demanded that the provincial government direct public bodies to implement Article 6 of the law on proactive disclosure of information through websites and provide the necessary funds to public bodies in this regard.
They also demanded that PIOs be appointed and notified in all public bodies, as required by section 7 of the law, and ensure that their contact details are easily accessible via notice boards, websites and publications. PIOs should be designated by position, not by name, to ensure continuity in the event of an officer’s retirement, transfer or death.
They demanded that the government take measures to ensure the indexing and computerization of records in all public bodies, allocate the necessary funds in the budget for this purpose and allocate sufficient funds to the commission so that it can s effectively discharge its statutory responsibilities in terms of raising public awareness. and capacity building of PIOs.
Meeting participants also demanded that the government take steps to digitize records and facilitate citizens’ access to records and information through online platforms.