Seminar on Right to Information and Whistleblower Protection

Venue : Hotel Pearl Continental, Lahore

Date : 25th March 2015

Transparency International Pakistan in collaboration with National Accountability Bureau, Punjab organized a seminar on Right to Information and Whistleblower Protection Law in Lahore on March 25, 2015. Sohail Muzzafar, Chairman, Transparency International Pakistan stated that strong Right to Information and Whistleblower Protection Laws were needed for the citizens to hold their leaders and officials accountable. He also called upon the public institutions to prioritise anti-corruption efforts to rebuilt public trust. There should be an efficient monitoring and integrity mechanisms across all sectors so that the gap between law and practice be minimized.

Dr Munir Ahmad, Rector National College of Business Administration and Economics gave a brief summary of the National Integrity System Research, which took almost 2 years to complete. He said that the NIS studied the laws and practice of thirteen pillars of the state from the Government, Public and Non-Government Institutions. The NIS concluded that to improve governance the Government needs to strengthen its RTI and Whistleblower Protection Laws.

Justice (R) Nasira Iqbal, Ex Judge of the Lahore High Court and Trustee TI Pakistan spoke about the necessity for the Government to Enact Whistle Blower Protection and the Right to Public Services Act. She stressed that the enactment of these laws will go a long way in curbing corruption in the country.

Justice (R) Munir Ahmad Mughal, Ex Judge Lahore High Court talked about the necessity and benefits of the Right to Information Law in the country. He said that free-flowing information was not a privilege but the right of every citizen.

Mr Amer Ejaz, Executive Director, CPDI gave a presentation of the Implementation of the Right to Information Laws in Pakistan. He said that though the RTI Laws are already in place at the Federal and Provincial level, they were very weak and stressed an urgent need for stronger legislation with stricter implementation. He also said that the recently-enacted RTI laws of KPK and Punjab were good, strong laws that needed to be ‘used’ by the citizens.

Maj (R) Syed Burhan Ali, Director General, NAB Punjab gave a summary of NAB’s awareness and prevention program. He said that NAB reached out to school children, youth and the general public. NAB has formed “character-building societies” in educational institutions where they stressed on subjects such as ethics and morality because it is better to prevent it then to later prosecute the perpetrators. He further stressed the need for citizens to change their attitudes and become proactive in the fight against corruption.

Mr Rana Mannan Khan, MPA Punjab Assembly (PML-N), presented the steps being taken by the government as far as Freedom of Information and Whistleblower protection were concerned; he also spoke about the measures being taken to fight corruption and promote transparency. This seminar was very unique as it represented the viewpoint of most stakeholders concerned ranging from policy makers, civil society activists, and government officials. Maximum representation was also ensured by getting a relevant audience ranging from journalists, media personnel, public officials, academia, as well as students. TI Pakistan was successfully able to advocate for stronger right to information and whistle blower protection laws and is keeping this momentum alive by empowering the Pakistani populace to stand up for themselves. The key message that was given out to people was to be persistent and play their part before pointing out fingers. Some success stories were also mentioned by our speakers that motivated the people present there to do something right. We were very delighted to receive a huge number of students as we believe that the youth has the most important role to play for the betterment of Pakistan. Finally, we received a tremendous feedback from everyone and were able to make useful contacts that will further help us to demand better laws in Pakistan.

The seminar ended with a number of recommendations which will be forwarded to the Government for implementation.