The government has pushed out a new anti-public directive for the sake of “public interest”. Yet another move has been made to diminish transparency and limit people’s right to know. The new directive has almost killed the law of Freedom of Information by allowing all the ministries to block any information they wish.
The directive was issued last month by the Cabinet Division and it authorises all the ministries, divisions and agencies to stop the sharing of any information in the name of “public interest”. The term “any information” covers a very wide scope and could include anything.
Sources have told that the directive was issued after a citizen demanded some information from the Cabinet Division about the type of gifts received by the public officers, at the highest of ranks, from foreign dignitaries during the past few years. The Cabinet Division refused to reveal this information leading the citizen to go to the Federal Ombudsman, which is the only authority capable of challenging such decisions.
The Ombudsman asked the Cabinet Division to reveal the information inquired by the citizen and the Division had no other option other than follow the Ombudsman’s directive. The Ombudsman office stated that the information is not classified and therefore comes under the public domain. Cabinet Division approached the higher authorities instead of revealing the information to the citizen and asked the authorities to allow the protection of information for the greater “public interest”.
The Federal Government immediately issued a new directive to all ministries and divisions that nullifies the law of Freedom of Information and allows them to block any information under the name of “public interest”.
The directive was issued on 8th of September and stated “to immediately exclude from the purview of Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002, under the provisions of Article 8 of this ordinance, all documents and record which if publicised could compromise the public interest.”
Freedom and right to information is one of the basic citizen rights and allows the citizens to have access to any government record to ensure transparency. The government in Pakistan continues to resist to reveal such information despite their being a clear law that allows the citizens to ask for such info. First it was the Cyber Crime Law and now this. The Pakistani government continues to hide behind the name of “public interest” to conceal their acts of corruption and mismanagement.
via The News