ISLAMABAD: The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) has written letters to speaker of the National Assembly, chairmen of the Senate Standing Committee on Information and other senators, urging them to play a positive role in ensuring that the regressive amendment in the Right of Access to Information (RAI) Act 2017 be rejected and that the act is further strengthened to facilitate easy access of citizens to maximum information.

The centre has expressed concern about the proposed amendment which is currently under review by the Senate Standing Committee on Information.

The letters, signed by CPDI Executive Director Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, have been sent to NA Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Faisal Javed Khan and other senators.

CPDI maintains that citizens’ access to maximum information must be strengthened

“CPDI has also submitted an analysis of the RAI Act 2017, including recommendations for its improvement based on regional and international best practices. It has requested that its recommendations are duly considered by the government and the Parliament in order to ensure that the Act meets the recognised standards like maximum disclosure, obligation to publish, minimal exceptions and cost-effective access to information,” the letter stated.

In a statement, the CPDI has urged the Parliament to reject the efforts by some Senators to weaken the law, and rather set very higher standards of transparency and citizens’ access to information in the administration of parliamentary secretariats and parliamentary proceedings including the ones held in committees.

“Only a Parliament that is very transparent in its internal matters will have the moral authority to require other organisations of the government to become transparent and accountable,” it stated.

CPDI has suggested that open meetings be held by the Senate Committee on Information to hear views and suggestions of experts and relevant civil society groups.

By holding such open meetings and providing an opportunity for civil society organisations to share their suggestions, the committee will set a highly commendable precedent for other committees to follow and for improving the quality of legislation.

It has also requested the office of the NA speaker to use its influence to ensure that relevant forums give serious consideration to civil society recommendations and provide civil society organisations with adequate opportunities to personally share their views and suggestions with the standing committee concerned.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2023

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