CSOs Provincial Coordination Meeting for Enhanced Awareness and Implementation of Right to Information Laws in Baluchistan
Date: 11 June 2021
Venue: Kallat City, Baluchistan
Summary: The Government of Balochistan has recently enacted Balochistan Right to Information Act 2021 which provides a fundamental right for any person to access to information held by government bodies. It is important for stakeholders to know salient features of the law. In this regard, Transparency International Pakistan organized a CSOs Provincial Coordination Meeting for Enhanced Awareness and Implementation of Right to Information Laws in Baluchistan.
The meeting which was attended by 30 participants including 14 females and 16 males was organized in district Kalat in collaboration with Society for Community Action and Press (SCAP). The prominent participants included Mr. Hassan Hasrat, Executive Director, SCAP Baluchistan, Mr. Sadiq Ahmed (Lecturer Education Department), Meer Munir Ahmed Shahwani ( Anjuman-a-Tajiran Sadar), Mr. Mohammad Iqbal (District Social Welfare Officer), Meer Murad Khan Mengal (Sadar BNP Mengal Kalat), Mr. Mubark Khan ( Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), Nazryati), Mr. Khalil Ahmed ( Human Rights Activist), Mr. Ateeq-ur-Rehman (JUI, Pakistan), Mr. Ghulam Qadir (Kalat Grand Alliance) and Mr. Mohammad Ibrahim (PTI, Kalat) among many others.
The objective of the meeting was to discuss the current situation of RTI law in the province and to coordinate with civil society organizations on how to play an enhanced role for the effective implementation of the law.
The workshop started with the recitation of verses from the Holy Quran by Mr. Ateeq-ur-Rehman (District Nahib Ameer, JUI Pakistan). Mr. Hassan Hasrat, Executive Director, SCAP Baluchistan, warmly welcomed all respected participants from political parties, government official, teachers, civil society representatives, students and expressed that the recent approved Baluchistan Right to Information Act, 2021, is a get way for every citizen of province to have access to information. This capacity building session has been organized with the support of Transparency International Pakistan to build the capacity of local civil society and other key stakeholders on RTI law. He thanked Transparency International – Pakistan for supporting and facilitating such kind of human rights advocacy and mobilization in the province.
Mr. Sadiq who is a lecturer in Education Department, Government of Balochistan first gave an overview the new Balochistan RTI Act 2021. Then he gave a detailed briefing on various section of the law including definition of act, maintenance and indexing of records, publication and availability of records, process for requesting of information, assistance to applicants, and offences. Another speaker Mr. Shahwani, who is the President of Anjuman-a-Tajiran thanked the event organizers and appreciated them to have organized such an event in Kalat first time presenting the law in detail. He said that it would increase the capacity building of the citizens who are getting valuable information. He said that the Act would provide a way to get information and increase transparency and efficiency of implemented projects, funds in the district and the province.
After him, Mr. Iqbal, who is the District Social Welfare Officer shared his views about RTI, 2021 and said that, the Government has officially shared new approved laws including Child Protection Law, Human Rights Law with all stakeholders, but unfortunately there the implementation of such laws in the province has always been a matter of great concern. He said, after the enactment of such laws, the government should show their willingness and support for their implementation and monitoring. It is therefore their benefit will reach out to the citizens. He thanked SCAP and Transparency International Pakistan for conducting such kind of informative sessions in the district. He also requested that, if possible, orientation sessions on Child Protection Law, Women Law and Human Rights Law are also needed. The government has notified district level committees under the chairmanship of District Commissioner; however, no regular committees meeting has been held in the district so far.
Another speaker, Mr. Mengal, who is a prominent political activist said that, under article 19A of the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, every citizen has the right to have access to the information in all matters of public importance subject to the regulation and reasonable instruction imposed by the law. But in our society, the information related with government bodies including programs, projects and their utilized funds has been restricted to access by the stakeholders. Even nobody knows how to have access to information. He pointed out that laws are prepared without consultation of key stakeholders, and after their approval, the implementation of these laws has been an issue.
The presentations were followed by a detailed Q&A session in which the participants asked various questions regarding the revised Balochistan RTI law from the speakers. They also deliberated upon a collective advocacy by members of the civil society for the implementation of RTI law in Baluchistan. The event was also covered in social and print media. In the end, all the CSOs praised TI Pakistan efforts for such an interactive and informative session, and requested to continue it in other districts of Kalat.